Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith faces criminal charges in Rankin County for alleged abuse of a former girlfriend, if his attorney can't get it dismissed.
Photo by Imani Khayyam.
JACKSON A Hinds County jury recently acquitted District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith of charges for helping a Jackson man avoid going to trial over a narcotics bust. Now, Smith wants a Rankin County judge to quash another set of criminal charges against him—for domestic violence, stalking and robbery charges.
Christie Edwards, who documents say had a former relationship with Smith, told the grand jury that Smith pointed a firearm at her and made threatening comments. She also claimed he threw her against a counter.
Jackson attorney John Reeves, who is handling Smith's defense this time around, filed a Motion to Dismiss in Rankin County Circuit Court on Aug. 30 asking for the May 25, 2017, indictment to be dismissed. In the motion, Reeves relies on a familiar argument for those who followed Smith's earlier two trials after Attorney General Jim Hood's office asked for his indictment on the Butler-related charges. Reeves argues that Hood overstepped his authority in asking a Rankin County grand jury to indict Smith, who would then face trial in a Rankin County (where it is widely believed that a jury would not be as sympathetic to him).
Reeves, a former state legislator, argued that the case Williams v. State set precedent that the attorney general must follow—meaning the State should only step in to prosecute a case if the local district attorney requests it. The motion quotes that ruling saying that "the attorney general (cannot) usurp or encroach upon the constitutional or the statutory power of the local district attorney in a criminal case where the attorney general's assistance is not requested by the district attorney."
The motion argues that 20th Circuit Court District Attorney Michael Guest, who represents Rankin and Madison counties, did not request help from the attorney general, or consent to his office stepping into the case.
"Upon information and belief," Reeves writes, "the defense asserts that Mr. Guest was presented with this case and declined to prosecute District Attorney Smith. The attorney general overreached the boundaries established by the Mississippi Constitution, and interpreting case law by pursuing the indictments against District Attorney Smith."
Smith tried to use the Williams v. State case as precedent to stop the attorney general from prosecuting the earlier cases against him, but was not successful.
Both Reeves and the attorney general's office declined to comment on the motion or the case, citing pending litigation.
In the small, intertwined world that is the Jackson legal and political community, attorney Reeves also testified in Smith's high-profile case against Ben Allen, president of Downtown Jackson Partners, because he was a former board member of DJP.
An archive of reporting on controversies surrounding Hinds County district attorneys, present and past.
Reeves also defended former Mayor Frank Melton in his federal trial for charges related to his leading a group of cops and teenagers to destroy a mentally disturbed young man's rental duplex in 2006. That trial ended in a mistrial, and Melton died on Election Day before the feds could retry him.
Smith, then a defense attorney, successfully represented one of Melton's bodyguards in the Hinds County trial against Melton and his entourage on gun charges.
Melton, along with former District Attorney Ed Peters, later supported Smith's first run for district attorney when he unseated Faye Peterson, who had brought the Hinds County charges against Melton and his bodyguards, working with the attorney general's office. The assistant district attorney arguing much of that case was Stanley Alexander, who works for Hood now as an assistant attorney general. Alexander later ran unsuccessfully for district attorney against Smith.
Smith's Rankin County trial is scheduled for October.
Read more at jfp.ms/DAFiles.
Correction: This story originally said in one place that Reeves was called as a witness in Smith's earlier trial when it should have said in both places that he was a witness in Smith's prosecution of Ben Allen. We apologize for the error. This story above is corrected.