Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill sequestered the file on case 16-120 soon after District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith's June 22 arrest. Photo courtesy Kenya Hudson
This Hinds County Circuit Court case, 16-120, serves as the central mystery to the ongoing legal morass surrounding District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith. Now sealed, the file is hidden behind the authority of Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill, who sequestered the file soon after Smith's June 22 arrest and as of press time has not released his grip even as both sides say they have no opposition to opening the file.
An archive of reporting on controversies surrounding Hinds County district attorneys, present and past.
First mentioned in the affidavit used to arrest Smith, very little is mentioned in the filings for Smith's case, 16-624, about this other case. In the attached emails between Smith, Weill's clerk and representatives from the DA's office, Weill's clerk emailed Circuit Clerk Zach Wallace to ask him to place the request from the AG's office for an appearance before the grand jury, despite protests from Smith, into this sealed file.
"Judge Weill executed a sealed Order yesterday, which permits the Attorney General's Office to present a matter to the Hinds County Grand Jury on April 7, 2016, at 9 a.m.," Weill's clerk wrote in the email to Wallace.
"I will bring the Order down later for you to file in sealed cause number 251-16-120."
Soon afterward, the fight for the records began, including requests from both Smith's attorney and even the AG's office to unseal the file. They have, as of yet, gone unanswered from the court, prompting The Clarion-Ledger to use its deep legal pockets to file a series of motions to open 16-120, in addition to others related to Smith.
There are clues to what resides within the sealed file in other proceedings. Smith's attorney filed a motion in the Mississippi Supreme Court asking the court to toss out an administrative order from Weill temporarily barring Smith from participating in the work of his office. As a response, Weill filed a response, stating that 16-120 and other sealed documents "involve issues concerning the Hinds County Grand Jury, and are not subject to public disclosure absent some specific, compelling reason for the same."
Listed among other documents are two that specifically reside within 16-120: a transcript of the testimony of FBI Special Agent Robert Culpepper from a March 22, 2016, sealed hearing for 16-120; and a letter from Culpepper to the AG's office, which was included as an exhibit to a sealed motion filed by the AG on February 19, 2016, in 16-120.
Until the court rules on the CL's motions, which they have not by press time, it will be hard to tell.
Follow the ongoing DA saga at jfp.ms/DAFiles.