Jackson County Mississippi Sheriff Mike Byrd has pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge of engaging in conduct that misled another person, with the intent to stop communication with a federal law enforcement official.
Byrd, who is 64, gave the plea before Judge William Steele in US District Court in the Southern District of Alabama.
Before he entered the guilty plea, the judge told Byrd that when he pleads guilty to the federal charge, he would lose certain rights, including the right to vote, have a firearm or be elected to public office.
As of yesterday, Byrd still had not resigned from his office.
In court Monday, the judge noted that a report will be prepared before his sentencing in March 2014.
The federal government recommends a term of six months house arrest and six months of probation, but the judge could give another sentence, which could include jail time.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Several agents with the FBI Safe Street Task Force from Pascagoula AL went to the plea on Tuesday. Also in attendance were FBI agents from Mobile, who conducted the investigation.
In court documents, Byrd admitted that he ordered computer evidence and video from a police car dash board be destroyed in the case of a man named John Stahl. Stahl was put under arrest in June 2012 on charges that he stole a police car.
Byrd admitted in court that he kicked Stahl in the groin after Stahl was put in handcuffs and was not resisting arrest. About a week after this incident, Byrd ordered a deputy to delete the video from the patrol car video recorder. He was quoted as saying, ‘you need to get rid of this video.’
FBI agents went to interview Stahl because they were conducting an investigation on Byrd for acts of violence against people who had been put under arrest by the sheriff’s office.
Stahl did lead the police on a 17 mile chase in the police car he stole. He eventually stopped when he saw three deputies from Mobile had st up a road block. He called on the radio that he was going to surrender to them.
He stopped and was pulled from the car and thrown onto the ground. He said that at that point he surrendered and he did not resist.
Stahl told one deputy he was sorry he took the car, and the deputy said it was too late. Stahl says he was kicked in the face and his head was stomped on. He then was held against the car. When Byrd arrived, Stahl was facing the police car and was kicked in the groin.
Stahl said that Byrd then put him in the police care and told him he was going to make sure he spent the rest of his life in jail for embarrassing him.
Stahl says that he did deserve punishment, but not physical abuse.
Byrd also is accused of having an employee destroy the hard drive on his computer to get rid of incriminating emails. He is being charged with fraud and embezzlement, perjury, hindering prosecution, witness tampering, extortion, and intimidating another officer.