After weeks of avoiding the Mississippi spotlight , inmate turned free man, Joseph Ozment's luck ran out after investigators with the attorney general's office tracked him down in Laramie, Wyoming.
"It was the toughest manhunt I've ever been associated with," said Attorney General Jim Hood.
Serving a life sentence for murder, Ozment was one of five convicts working at the governor's mansion as a trusty when he was pardoned by former governor Haley Barbour and the only one who couldn't be found after the validity of those pardons came into question.
Hood says Ozment sped away in his girlfriend's car when investigators tried to serve him court papers, but was tracked to a hotel where he was staying under a fake name. With Ozment now under the thumb of the AG's office, Hood says Barbour is playing the political blame game after going on CNN saying the AG's office advised his office on the pardons.
Documents from the AG's office and now court exhibits show an assistant attorney general advising one of Barbour's advisors about the section of the state constitution requiring a 30 days notice of publication for anyone receiving a pardon.
"It's unfortunate that the governor is desperate enough to where he's gotten in the position to where he's got to go on the national media and make false statements about what our office advised him of when the documentation itself tells the truth," said Hood.
Another document getting attention is the wedding invitation announcing the marriage of Joseph Ozment and his girlfriend. Hood says the pictures were taken on the grounds of the governor's mansion and clearly show Ozment not wearing a trusty inmate jumpsuit as required by law.
Hood says it brings into question what other privileges were handed out.
"Some of this activity at the mansion is really disconcerting as to the freedoms these people had, dressing in street clothes, having visits. I don't know if they were conjugal visits or what they actually had there at the mansion," said Hood.
The couple was suppose to tie the knot during a sunset wedding in March on Pensacola Beach, but after Ozment's pardon went under the legal microscope, the couple revised the plans to a small private ceremony at an undisclosed date, time and location.
Hood says Ozment's fiance is an engineer for a national defense contractor. Ozment was sentenced to life in prison in 1994 for the murder of Ricky Montgomery during a robbery in Desoto County.
Hood says tracking down Ozment wasn't easy or cheap and if pardons are voided by a court, Hood says he'll begin looking into whether he can legally go after Barbour and make him pay for all of it.
"I think the taxpayers deserve to have the money back if the court finds that these are void, the money back we have to spend correcting a problem he's caused by not following the constitution," said Hood.
Ozment did start contacting authorities to check in after being served with those papers. At this point, he's still in Wyoming and if he doesn't show up to court Friday for a hearing, he will be found in contempt.
In the meantime, Hood says there's still 20 files on pardoned inmates missing, 18 of them convicted murderers. When it comes to the informant who led investigators to Ozment, Hood says there will be a payment, it just hasn't been decided how much.
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