The Clarion Ledger – by Geoff Pender and Emily Le Coz
Mark Mayfield’s family plans to sue or bring charges against the city of Madison, its police department or “anyone responsible” after Mayfield’s apparent suicide Friday.
Mayfield’s relatives, already angered over his arrest in May in the U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran photo scandal, say Madison police were trespassing when they showed up at his home in Ridgeland after he apparently shot himself. They say Mayfield’s arrest was politically motivated by supporters of Cochran and drove him to suicide.
“The funeral is (Tuesday), but the first of next week, we will be suing the city of Madison,” said Mayfield’s nephew, Ridgeland Alderman Wesley Hamlin. “It’s the highest degree of abuse of power.”
Hamlin and Mayfield’s brother-in-law, attorney John Reeves, said the family also is considering filing trespassing or other charges against Madison police officers who came to Mayfield’s home on Friday.
Madison police officials say three officers went to Mayfield’s home to confirm his identity after hearing of his possible death, checked in with Ridgeland police before they arrived, and were only there for about 10 minutes.
Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler, a Cochran supporter, declined comment on possible charges or litigation, but said “This is a tragic situation for Mississippi … emotions are high and there are a lot of allegations.”
Mayfield was arrested by Madison police on May 22, in a case that has drawn national attention as part of the bitter Mississippi GOP primary between Cochran and tea party challenger Chris McDaniel.
Mayfield and three other McDaniel supporters were charged with felony conspiracy, accused of plotting to photograph Cochran’s bedridden wife in her nursing home bed for use in a political hit piece video.
Mayfield was a respected attorney, state Republican and tea party leader, husband and father of two sons. Friends, family and his attorneys have said his arrest was politically motivated and his treatment by Madison authorities – including his bond being set at $250,000 — was overboard.
Reeves, said: “I’ve been an attorney for 32 years, and they don’t set drug dealers’ bonds that high.”
Reeves said Mayfield’s “life crashed” after his arrest.
“He was so shocked at being accused of something he didn’t do, and Cochran used his arrest photo in a political ad … Mark was a transactional lawyer – loan closings, title work – for three banks in the Jackson area. On the day his picture was in the paper, all three banks called him and said, ‘Mark, you’re fired.’ That devastated him. He lost his business. He had to let his secretaries go.”
Madison Assistant Police Chief Robert Sanders said it’s not unusual for officers from one department to cross city lines, particularly when it involves a suspect in a case they are working.
“We were notified that morning that Mr. Mayfield was possibly deceased,” Sanders said. “… I was in contact with the (Ridgeland) patrol commander that morning before our officers went there. Our (Criminal Investigation Commander) responded with two other investigators, went to the scene, confirmed his identity and left.”
Ridgeland Police Chief Jimmy Houston said he met with the Mayfield family on Friday and they discussed charges against Madison PD.
“They did not pursue charges at that time,” Houston said. “They chose to let everything settle down and hold off, and we will have another meeting with them the end of this week or first of next week.”
Houston said his investigators are “looking into the process.”
“We are not investigating Madison PD,” Houston said. “We are investigating the process, and that it was reported to us that Madison PD trespassed after the suicide of Mark Mayfield. There’s not a lot of investigating that needs to be done … the family will have the option of signing charges or not.”
Houston said his department and Madison PD often work together, and “it’s not un-normal” for agencies to cross jurisdictions in investigations.
“I don’t think we would have gone if the situation was reversed, but that’s just me,” Houston said. “But there was an ongoing criminal investigation … The main reason I think they showed up was to assist if they could.”
Initially Hamlin and Reeves said they believed Madison police showed up before Ridgeland police. Houston and Sanders said that was not the case.
“We had officers, a lieutenant and an assistant chief there when Madison arrived,” Houston said. “They did not go onto the crime scene … there was nothing there that was bothered by them being there.”
Mayfield’s friends and family have also accused Madison police of being heavy-handed during his arrest in May.
Reeves said: “The Madison Police Department sent six police officers down there (to Mayfield’s office), flung open the door, scared the secretary, guns out and they cuffed him, put him in a holding tank … They treated him like a criminal.”
There have been news and social media reports that Madison police sent a “SWAT team” to arrest Mayfield.
But Sanders said only an investigator, a warrants officer and a Hinds County deputy went to arrest Mayfield, and it happened without incident and no guns drawn.
“When they arrived, Mr. Mayfield was not even at his office,” Sanders said. “They spoke with Mr. Mayfield’s receptionist as she came off the elevator. They spoke with Mr. Mayfield, who was down the road, and waited for him to arrive. He arrived, gave some paperwork to his receptionist, and they stepped into his office to discuss what was going on.
“He was completely cooperative and left with them,” Sanders said. “Now, it’s likely they did use handcuffs … At no time were any weapons drawn. There was no SWAT team, nor was any SWAT team on standby at any time.”
Mayfield’s attorney in the Cochran photo case had no comment on potential litigation or charges, but still questions how Mayfield’s case was handled, particularly the large bond.
“That’s still the hardest for me to understand is $250,000 bail put on a respected citizen, a lifelong resident,” Coxwell said. “… The perception (Mayfield’s arrest and bond) gave to the public affected Mark very deeply in his mind and his heart. But it doesn’t really do any good any more to talk about the merits of the case. It’s over now as far as Mark’s concerned.”
And Coxwell also questioned Madison police showing up at Mayfield’s home on Friday.
“I heard someone say – just hearsay – that they were coming to make sure it was him,” Coxwell said. “I think that is the most ludicrous thing I’ve heard. They would have gotten that information through official channels. The man was dead, and they need to leave him alone.”
Contact Geoff Pender at (601) 961-7266 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @GeoffPender on Twitter.
Contact Emily Le Coz at email@example.com or (601) 961-7249. Follow @emily_lecoz on Twitter.