JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Former Jackson County sheriff Mike Byrd is now a prisoner in his own home, literally. Byrd was sentenced in state court Thursday in Pascagoula for his guilty plea on one count of intimidating a witness. This comes two days after a guilty plea in federal court where he received six months of house arrest.
Once the sentencing hearing started, District Attorney Tony Lawrence and defense attorney Joe Sam Owen held a legal sparring match over the length of any sentence Mike Byrd might receive. Owen wanted six months house arrest to run concurrent with Byrd's federal sentence. Lawrence wanted an additional year.
At one point, special Judge William Coleman sent both sides to chambers to seek an agreement, but none came. The judge ruled in favor of Byrd; Lawrence was dismayed.
"I am disappointed," Lawrence said. "I respectfully disagree with what the court did. I think he deserved more than six months. I think that the actions he took as sheriff of this county in his later years deserved more punishment than what he got today."
But the D.A. did take solace in one thing.
"Mike Byrd is no longer sheriff. Mike Byrd cannot carry a gun. Mike Byrd wears an ankle bracelet today. Mike Byrd will never run for public office again. He will never be the sheriff of Jackson County again."
Before passing sentence, Judge Coleman strongly rebuked the former sheriff.
"You have brought shame and disgrace to yourself as an individual, and to your family, and even the community, and to all members of law enforcement in general," the judge told Byrd.
The harsh comments from the judge came as no surprise to Byrd's legal team.
"When you have a law enforcement officer or a public official that enters a plea, regardless of the nature of the plea, you can expect some kind of chastisement," Joe Sam Owen said.
Owen also knew it could have been worse.
"That's the best possible thing he could have gotten. He's very fortunate and I think he's elated and at the same time I think he feels some relief."
As for hundreds of comments posted on social media that Byrd received special treatment because of his position, Owen had this to say.
"I understand those criticisms and people will say that and they will feel it's a slap on the wrist until they're the ones standing up there. And then it's not a slap on the wrist," Owen said.
As for why the plea deal was reached at all, Lawrence explained it this way.
"We felt like we had to resolve this case and resolve it quickly to give law enforcement back respect."
The sentence for Byrd is in effect immediately. In addition to his house arrest and probation, Byrd has also been ordered to pay court costs and fines totaling more than $10,000 in both the state and federal cases.
Under house arrest, Byrd may only leave for work, to attend church, or go to important appointments such as a visit to the doctor. He will be monitored with an ankle bracelet.