Timing of new charges against Hinds Co. DA questioned - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Timing of new charges against Hinds Co. DA questioned

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

As Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith awaits another trial date, this time for charges out of Rankin County, some are questioning the timing of it all.

Smith faces four charges, two counts of domestic violence, felony aggravated stalking and robbery, all stemming from incidents that took place two years ago. So why are they surfacing right before Smith's Hinds County retrial?

"District Attorney Smith's trial is starting June 12, I think, then these charges pop up right before that, right before jury selection," attorney Merrida Coxwell said. "Makes it more complications that you have to talk to the jury about."

Smith's attorney, Jim Waide, even told us he was "disturbed" by all the publicity and the prospect of having this case with new charges in Rankin County, stalking, domestic violence, possibly tried before an all-white jury.

RELATED STORY: Hinds Co. DA arrested again; charged with domestic violence, stalking and robbery

Here's what we've been able to uncover: The indictments say Smith committed those acts against his ex-girlfriend Christie Edwards in August 2015. 

On Tuesday, a press release from the Attorney General's Office said the AG's office didn't find out about the crimes until after news reports on Smith's Hinds County charges, which means they would have known about the aggravated stalking and domestic violence charges since last year.

Attorney General Jim Hood said that's not correct. He told reporters Wednesday he believes they found out about it from the FBI a few months ago.

"I didn't know when I put that statement in our comment exactly when it was and I didn't want to misstate something," said Hood said. "I just know it came to my attention after the prosecution began, but I think it was more or less in the last few weeks than last summer."

FBI Jackson Public Affairs Specialist Brett Carr said it's not uncommon for members of the public to reach out to the agency, either.

"When concerns are brought to the FBI, a determination is made as to whether there is a violation of federal law or if the concerns should be referred to another investigative agency," Carr said in a statement.

However, it's still not known when Edwards reported those crimes to the FBI, nor why she decided against telling local law enforcement.

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey said there's no record of Edwards calling or reporting these offenses to his department.

"If she made the complaint, then I think that law enforcement had to move forward with it," Coxwell said. "Whether there's some kind of planning in this case on the attorney general's side, I don't know. All of the trial cases and defensive cases are about strategic planning on both sides."

The longtime attorney said it's hardly unusual, though.

"It's easy to say 'Wow, that's not fair' but it's generally permitted unless you can show a constitutional basis to stop it and that really doesn't exist," added Coxwell.

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