September 27, 2023

In 2012, three months after Eddie Scott turned sheriff of Clay County, Miss., a declare by a lady he had helped put behind bars threatened to tarnish his earliest days in workplace.

The girl mentioned in an April court docket submitting that, whereas chief deputy lower than three years earlier, he had coerced her right into a sexual relationship after she was arrested. Promising to make use of his affect of their rural group to maintain her out of jail, she mentioned, the lawman drove her to a hog farm to have intercourse in his patrol automotive on at the very least 5 events.

She laid out her allegations in state circuit court docket in October 2012 and requested a decide to overturn her jail sentence. To again up her story, the 26-year-old confirmed suggestive letters with a return deal with of the Clay County Sheriff’s Workplace and signed by then-Chief Deputy Scott, who was 47.

“Hey Attractive,” he wrote to her in jail 9 months earlier than his election to the highest job. “Acquired my blood pumping arduous after studying the final two letters. Can’t cease considering of how tight it’s. I need all of that and extra if you happen to can.”

The revelations might have led to an inner investigation, a legal inquiry or a public reckoning for the newly put in sheriff. As a substitute, highly effective officers in Clay County took no motion.

Decide Jim Kitchens dominated towards the girl. Sheriff Scott’s predecessor, Laddie Huffman, had recognized of the allegations earlier than retiring however didn’t report them to state or federal legislation enforcement businesses. There is no such thing as a file of any inner investigation or disciplinary evaluation.

The court docket file for the girl’s case — the one public file of the allegations — went lacking on the Clay County Courthouse, possible for years. It was positioned within the improper submitting cupboard, misplaced amongst lots of of circumstances, till reporters pressed for it this summer time whereas investigating different allegations towards Sheriff Scott.

In interviews, Sheriff Scott wouldn’t straight reply whether or not he had ever had intercourse with the girl. When requested about his relationship along with her, he known as it a “mistake.” He denied coercing her.

“What she didn’t inform was, she was coming as much as the workplace along with her tits hanging out,” he mentioned. “I by no means put myself in that place anymore.”

However an investigation by The New York Occasions and the Mississippi Middle for Investigative Reporting at Mississippi At the moment, which included dozens of interviews and a evaluation of court docket information and solely obtained inner paperwork, discovered that in his 11 years in workplace, Sheriff Scott has repeatedly been accused of utilizing the ability of his place to harass girls, coerce them into intercourse and retaliate towards those that criticize him or allege abuse.

In rural communities like Clay County — dominated by farmland and financial hardship — some sheriffs rule like kings. They’ll arrest anybody they select, smear reputations and hand out reprieves and different favors. They’ve huge latitude to carry folks in jail so long as they please and so they reply to nobody, usually dealing with little press or prosecutorial scrutiny.

Three months in the past, The Occasions and Mississippi At the moment informed the story of one other sheriff’s workplace, lower than 40 miles away. Former Noxubee County Sheriff Terry Grassaree rose within the ranks of his Mississippi division and saved his elected workplace for years regardless of related accusations of abuse. He was voted out in 2019 and now faces federal prices of bribery.

However in Clay County, Sheriff Scott stays in energy even after repeated allegations of misconduct.

An area lady mentioned the sheriff had repeatedly compelled her into intercourse throughout her eight months in jail beginning in 2017. When she started telling folks after her launch, she mentioned, a sheriff’s deputy organized to have medication planted in her automotive — an allegation corroborated by a secretly recorded dialog with a person who mentioned he had planted them.

In a court docket submitting final 12 months, a person claimed that Sheriff Scott had pursued a sexual relationship together with his girlfriend and helped her keep away from a prolonged jail sentence when the couple’s little one died in 2019 with meth in his system. Prosecutors charged the dad and mom with little one neglect. Whereas prosecutors sought solely probation within the mom’s case, they provided the daddy a plea deal that known as for 10 years in jail.

Additionally final 12 months, a lady who as soon as labored for the sheriff sued him, claiming he had subjected her to months of sexual harassment, together with texts commenting on her breasts. After she filed her criticism, Sheriff Scott fired her boyfriend, a captain within the workplace.

At the least 5 individuals who accused the sheriff of misconduct, or who had been potential witnesses within the circumstances, mentioned he had retaliated towards them, efforts they consider had been meant to silence them or discredit their allegations.

In 2021, the F.B.I. started investigating allegations towards the sheriff. They interviewed practically a dozen witnesses, together with Sheriff Scott and workers members in his workplace. No prices have been filed.

Officers acquainted with the allegations and the way they’ve been investigated, together with federal prosecutors, declined to remark. Sheriff Huffman, citing poor well being, mentioned he didn’t keep in mind any of the allegations. Decide Kitchens didn’t reply to a request for remark.

In a number of interviews, together with one on digicam with reporters, Sheriff Scott, now 58, has denied harassing girls, coercing them into intercourse or retaliating towards anybody. He mentioned he has needed to defend his fame from “con artists” and “drug customers” who had been inventing accusations to keep away from jail time or by some means profit financially.

The sheriff mentioned he was the sufferer in all of this, and that he had been beneath assault. “It was a coordinated hit on me,” he mentioned.

In an announcement late Wednesday in response to this story, Sheriff Scott reiterated his innocence and known as the article “utterly slanted, one sided and with none foundation in truth.”

“I’ve cooperated absolutely with all authorities, information media and any others relating to questions regarding these allegations and can proceed to take action,” Scott wrote.

Sheriff Scott and his siblings grew up milking cows on their household farm in Montpelier, Miss., a rural crossroads alongside Freeway 46 marked by a single fuel station and the Baptist church his household attended.

After highschool, he married, had youngsters and labored at Bryan Meals, a meat processing firm and one of many space’s largest employers. Then he was known as to serve on a Clay County grand jury and have become fascinated with police work, he mentioned.

In 1999, he turned a full-time deputy for the Clay County Sheriff’s Workplace. He fought the drug commerce simply as meth was rising because the scourge of rural America and he finally turned an investigator, liable for fixing the county’s occasional murders. He rose to chief deputy, second in command to Sheriff Huffman.

The logical inheritor when Sheriff Huffman retired, he received his first election in 2011 and took workplace the subsequent 12 months.

At the moment, Sheriff Scott is considered one of Clay County’s hottest figures and the face of space legislation enforcement. His brother, Terry, is listed as senior investigator on the Clay County Sheriff’s Workplace web site; his son James serves on the Mississippi Freeway Patrol’s SWAT crew; and his sister, Tanya, has labored because the nurse for the county jail.

On the 137-acre unfold the place his household as soon as raised cows, Sheriff Scott hosts fish fries and crawfish boils, the place he swaps tales and swigs chilly beer with fellow legislation enforcement officers and a few of the county’s strongest officers.

Sheriff Scott has coated his workplace partitions with photographs of John Wayne, whom the sheriff considers his hero. The actor and the characters he performed symbolize every part good and respectable in America, Sheriff Scott mentioned. “They don’t construct them like him anymore.”

In his workplace, he retains a Christmas card from former President Donald J. Trump, whom he has met a number of occasions. Beside it’s a Bible that, he mentioned, reminds him of his childhood.

“Again after we had been children, all of us went to church and discovered the distinction between proper and improper,” he mentioned. “And we’re not seeing that now.”

Sheriff Scott’s public persona clashes with what a lady named Amber Jones says she skilled after she failed three drug checks and was arrested for violating probation in Might 2017.

That summer time, Ms. Jones, then 21, was known as down from her cell on the Clay County Detention Middle to the sheriff’s workplace, the place Sheriff Scott requested if she want to assist out submitting paperwork.

She had spent weeks in a grimy jail cell with out seeing the solar, she recalled. She informed him sure and have become a trusty, an inmate with particular privileges, working for the jail information administrator, Patty Stange.

Sooner or later within the workplace, Ms. Jones recalled, Sheriff Scott held out a hand to her and mentioned, “In the event you take this splinter out of my finger, I’ll provide you with an eight-hour dwelling go.”

Determined to see her household, she agreed, and some days later, the sheriff himself checked her out of jail to take her dwelling, she mentioned. A mile down the highway, the sheriff stopped the automotive by a small brick home and informed her she needed to change out of her jail garments.

Ms. Jones mentioned she felt uneasy because the sheriff led her inside, by a bed room to a toilet. He gave her a T-shirt and left her alone to vary.

However he finally returned and got here up behind her, Ms. Jones recalled, touching her and commenting on her tattoos. With out one other phrase, the sheriff pulled her to the mattress and compelled her to have intercourse, she mentioned.

Ms. Jones mentioned she felt that she had no selection — he was the sheriff. “I felt like I used to be nugatory, like I didn’t have any management over my very own physique,” she mentioned. “There was nothing I might do to cease it.”

After she visited her brother and returned to jail, she mentioned, the sheriff known as her to his workplace and informed her she didn’t have to fret about getting pregnant as a result of he had been “mounted.”

For the remainder of Ms. Jones’s eight months in jail, this sample continued, she mentioned: Sheriff Scott provided her dwelling passes to rearrange sexual encounters.

Her accusations had been detailed in a federal lawsuit filed final 12 months by a former worker of the Clay County Sheriff’s Workplace, Caitlyn Wilson. The go well with claims that Sheriff Scott sexually harassed Ms. Wilson, and it cites Ms. Jones’s allegations as proof of the sheriff’s mistreatment of ladies. In sworn testimony final month, Sheriff Scott declined to say whether or not he had ever had intercourse with Ms. Jones, citing his Fifth Modification proper to keep away from self-incrimination. The case is about for trial subsequent 12 months.

In interviews for this text, Sheriff Scott denied taking Ms. Jones out of jail or having sexual contact along with her. “Amber is a candy, likable lady on the face,” he mentioned. “However we discovered that she’s one of many largest con artists that ever walked the face of the earth.”

Had he taken her out of the jail, he mentioned, their exit would have been recorded on surveillance video and sign-out sheets. When reporters requested to evaluation such supplies, Sheriff Scott mentioned the pc system that logged inmates’ whereabouts was damaged.

Signal-out sheets had been saved amongst hundreds of pages of jail information stacked in lopsided piles on an workplace flooring. A evaluation of the one information obtainable revealed that Ms. Jones had acquired at the very least one dwelling go.

Ms. Jones’s description of the home the place she mentioned the sheriff took her for intercourse matches that of a spot Sheriff Scott mentioned he used for storage: a one-story brick dwelling a couple of mile from the jail. Sheriff Scott mentioned it was broadly recognized that he used the home and that plenty of folks let themselves out and in utilizing a key he saved beneath the doormat.

Ms. Jones shared account information displaying that previous midnight on Jan. 25, every week after she left jail, Sheriff Scott despatched her a good friend request on Snapchat, the disappearing-photo app. She additionally shared copies of textual content messages between them.

Within the texts, Sheriff Scott requested Ms. Jones for “updates,” his code for nude images, she mentioned. She felt compelled to ship them, she mentioned, as a result of her brother was in jail for drug possession.

In a single textual content trade from 2019, Ms. Jones requested the sheriff if he had heard something about her legal file being expunged. A “good replace” would “assist me keep in mind,” he replied, including a smiling emoji. In one other trade, the sheriff wrote that Ms. Jones owed him an “replace” and despatched her an emoji with a tongue protruding.

Sheriff Scott mentioned he couldn’t keep in mind what he had meant by “replace,” however denied that it concerned nude footage.

The one photographs he acquired from Ms. Jones over Snapchat, he mentioned, had been “physique pictures” that he had requested from her as a part of an investigation into jail inmates tattooing each other. Sheriff Scott mentioned he had offered these photographs to the F.B.I.

Two girls, together with one other feminine inmate, had seen her in the home the place she mentioned the sheriff took her for intercourse.

On one event, she mentioned, the sheriff drove her and the opposite jailed lady there, had them take away their clothes and gave them boxer shorts to placed on. Ms. Jones’s had been Superman-themed, with a cape to cowl the otherwise-bare again, she mentioned; the opposite lady acquired a “Duck Dynasty” pair.

Sheriff Scott posed the ladies collectively and snapped a photograph from behind, in line with Ms. Jones. The opposite lady, visibly upset, bolted for the lavatory, she mentioned.

A couple of minutes later, Ms. Jones mentioned she heard a knock on the door: It was Ms. Stange, the jail information administrator.

Ms. Stange mentioned in an announcement that she drove the ladies again from the home to the jail and so they appeared in good spirits. She mentioned she had no data of “any sexual misconduct of Sheriff Scott with any feminine inmates.”

The second lady declined to remark. However in a Fb submit final 12 months, she appeared to substantiate that she had been current for the image. Replying to a submit by Ms. Jones describing the occasions, the girl recalled that she had mentioned, “Oh, hell no,” and walked out of the room.

When requested about this beneath oath, Sheriff Scott took the Fifth.

For years after her launch from jail, Ms. Jones mentioned she tried to place these abuses behind her. She stopped getting messages from the sheriff after blocking his quantity close to the start of 2020, she mentioned.

Then, in September 2021, a lady who had labored for the Clay County Sheriff’s Workplace got here ahead with new accusations that threatened to convey consideration to years of alleged sexual misconduct by Sheriff Scott.

Caitlyn Wilson, a former investigative assistant who alleged sexual harassment, filed an Equal Employment Alternative Fee criticism that mentioned Sheriff Scott had made sexual advances towards her and threatened to fireplace her after she rebuked him. She made reference to different girls whose related experiences had not but been made public.

“My state of affairs has been exacerbated,” her criticism mentioned, citing a number of girls both in jail or employed by the county who had “made claims that the Sheriff was having intercourse with them. It seems to be well-known throughout the County that the Sheriff suffers from a sexual dependancy, and this sexual dependancy has affected my work efficiency and is inflicting me excessive worry and anxiousness.”

The E.E.O.C. didn’t weigh in on the deserves of Ms. Wilson’s criticism, however decided she had the best to sue.

Within the lawsuit she filed in Might 2022, Ms. Wilson described a gaggle chat by which Sheriff Scott had despatched a number of workers a gentle stream of sexually express textual content messages.

His messages, reviewed by reporters, referred to girls as “hookers,” “heifers” and “hos.” In a single textual content, the sheriff steered Ms. Wilson and Ms. Stange ought to “tag crew” to provide him oral intercourse. In others, he known as himself a stallion and mentioned girls “favored to be hammered.”

Footage the sheriff despatched, which he known as “humorous memes on the humor channel” beneath oath as a part of the lawsuit, in contrast girls to canine that wanted to be skilled and joked about date rape.

Ms. Wilson mentioned she determined to file her criticism after Sheriff Scott rubbed his crotch towards her as he walked previous her someday within the workplace. “I felt very violated,” she mentioned in an interview. “I used to be simply so shocked and stunned as a result of he was my boss.”

Sheriff Scott denied touching Ms. Wilson inappropriately, saying he was operating a excessive fever that day. “I used to be as sick as a canine,” he mentioned. “Grabbing a lady was the very last thing on my thoughts.”

He informed reporters that none of his texts included sexual content material and mentioned beneath oath that anybody within the group chat might have stopped collaborating at any time.

When Ms. Wilson filed her criticism, Sheriff Scott assigned considered one of his personal deputies to analyze. The ultimate report concluded that the allegations had been “unsubstantiated and punitive” and dismissed Sheriff Scott’s texts as grownup humor shared amongst prepared members.

Because the deputy investigated, Ms. Wilson mentioned, she discovered herself more and more remoted at work. She was barred from carrying her gun on the workplace and informed to eat lunch at her desk. Most of her co-workers stopped speaking to her, she mentioned.

In December 2021, three months after Ms. Wilson filed her preliminary criticism, Sheriff Scott suspended her then-boyfriend, Jeremy Bell, a captain who had labored within the workplace for 5 years. In accordance with a personnel report signed by Sheriff Scott, Mr. Bell had violated division coverage by driving his patrol automotive exterior of Clay County to go to Ms. Wilson’s home in a neighboring city. He was fired two days after Christmas.

It was round this time that Ms. Jones, who had not heard from Sheriff Scott for months, discovered herself beneath the scrutiny of native legislation enforcement once more, she mentioned.

A number of weeks after Ms. Wilson submitted her criticism citing allegations that girls within the jail had been compelled to have intercourse with Sheriff Scott, Ms. Jones was pulled over by a narcotics officer from West Level, a city of about 10,000 folks in Clay County.

The officer found a bag of diabetic needles crammed with meth beneath her passenger seat and arrested her. Ms. Jones believes the medication had been planted there.

“I knew I used to be being arrange,” she mentioned.

Pissed off and dealing with time behind bars, Ms. Jones determined two months later to post on a Facebook page called Mississippi Corruption, the place she detailed for the primary time her allegations towards the sheriff.

“I used to be fixing to go to jail for a extremely very long time for one thing that I didn’t even do, simply because he was mad over his errors, over issues that he had finished,” she mentioned.

Just a few months later, in April 2022, Ms. Jones acquired a video from her good friend Madison Ray, she mentioned. Ms. Ray mentioned she had secretly recorded a dialog with Joshua Fulgham, an area diabetic man with prior drug arrests, as a result of she suspected somebody had planted the medication whereas they had been all hanging out the evening earlier than Ms. Jones’s arrest.

The recording, on Ms. Ray’s cellphone, captures him explaining how and why he positioned the medication in Ms. Jones’s automotive. “I put dope beneath that seat like Kyle informed me to,” he says. “I didn’t even have to make use of mine. Kyle gave it to me.”

In accordance with Ms. Wilson’s lawsuit, Mr. Fulgham is referring to Deputy Kyle Eaves, who used to work for Sheriff Scott. “The obvious objective of Deputy Sheriff Eaves inflicting medication to be planted upon Jones is to intimidate Jones or to trigger her to be arrested in order that she is going to lack credibility in claiming an involuntary sexual relationship with Defendant Scott,” the criticism states.

After the video unfold round city, Mr. Fulgham was arrested on drug possession prices, taken to the jail and made a trusty. About six months later, he made a video on the Clay County jail and had it posted on Fb. He accused Ms. Jones of being a liar out to get Sheriff Scott, however by no means recanted his earlier statements.

“She wants assist and rehab, similar to me,” Mr. Fulgham mentioned within the video, “and she or he wants to depart the sheriff alone.”

The sheriff despatched a replica of the video to reporters and pointed to it as proof that Ms. Jones and others had been mendacity. “Looks like their plan [is] coming to gentle,” he mentioned.

Neither Mr. Fulgham nor Mr. Eaves responded to requests for remark.

About six months after the video was made, one other potential witness in Ms. Jones’s case modified his story too.

Her former boyfriend, Edward Adam Todd, had been arrested by Clay County deputies and was dealing with as much as 50 years in jail for 2 housebreaking prices.

After initially backing up Ms. Jones’s allegations, Mr. Todd later informed investigators that he had lied to get the sheriff in hassle, in line with transcripts of his April sentencing listening to.

The court docket transcript reveals that Decide Kitchens praised Mr. Todd for his change of coronary heart, saying his statements “cleared an area member of legislation enforcement that had been accused of one thing that most likely seems that was not true.”

On the listening to, the prosecutor steered a seven-year jail sentence for Mr. Todd, citing his assist to legislation enforcement. Decide Kitchens additional diminished his sentence, reducing it to 4 years.

As a substitute of being transferred to jail to serve his sentence, Mr. Todd has remained on the Clay County jail, the place he couldn’t instantly be reached for remark.

Sheriff Scott believes that he will likely be vindicated and that voters will see by the allegations to re-elect him within the deciding Democratic main election on Aug. 8.

He has received his earlier elections simply. However this time, he faces an sudden opponent who’s an skilled legislation enforcement officer in Clay County: his personal chief deputy, Ramirez Williams.

In February, Chief Deputy Williams introduced his run for sheriff. The subsequent month, Sheriff Scott demoted him to work the graveyard shift as a jailer.

When requested if Mr. Williams’s candidacy performed a job in his demotion, the sheriff replied, “Not essentially,” and declined to remark additional.

Sheriff Scott insists he’ll go away workplace on his personal phrases, no matter what turns into of the accusations towards him.

He mentioned he believes the federal investigation is over and he cooperated with their evaluation, even voluntarily assembly with federal authorities to reply questions. “I wasn’t going to let a bunch of drugheads run me out of workplace,” he mentioned.

The sheriff mentioned he had been burned by extending compassion to folks behind bars, however had no plans to cease. “You’ll be able to’t flip your again,” he mentioned. “Certainly one of today, I is likely to be in the identical form.”

He chuckled. “You by no means know.”

This text was co-reported by The New York Occasions and the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting at Mississippi Today.

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