A Disaster in Mississippi

Those with an ear to murmurings political could not help but hear the ruckus that stirred in recent months over in Mississippi. In a right-wing primary pitting a secessionist Tea Partier against an incumbent conservative Republican, the outcome was decided by black Democrats who turned out at incumbent Sen. That Cochran’s plea in order to reject the secessionist upstart Chris McDaniel.

But that is hardly the strangest historical nugget from the fierce contest that pushed into a runoff after neither candidate achieved the state’s fifty percent threshold. Nor would it be the part where the longtime Beltway figure Cochran tried to play up his folksy charm by recalling indecent liberties taken with farm animals when he was a child.

Mark Mayfield (l.) with Chris McDanielThe most bizarre aspect of the 2014 Mississippi Republican U.S. Senate Primary, far and away, was the break-in scandal. The short form is that somebody broke into a nursing home in order to photograph Cochran’s invalid wife, which pictures turned up in an outside interest’s anti-Cochran television spot.

Four were arrested in that caper, and questions still remain about what degree McDaniel’s campaign was aware of what was going on; their initial comments on the budding scandal at the time proved, well, inaccurate. Nobody has quite figured out what happened there.

But what has happened to the scandal since is that one of the arrested and accused, Mark Mayfield—an attorney and leader of a state Tea Party ogranization—ended his own life.

The family of Mississippi tea party leader Mark Mayfield, who committed suicide last week after facing charges for his alleged connection to the photographing of Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss) wife, plans legal action against “anyone responsible” for his death, according to The Clarion Ledger.

Authorities arrested Mayfield and two other supporters of Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) on conspiracy charges earlier this year after a blogger allegedly took photographs of Cochran’s bedridden wife, Rose, at a nursing home where she suffers from progressive dementia. The photos were allegedly used for an anti-Cochran political video that was later taken down.

Mayfield’s relatives argue that Madison Police Department officers trespassed when they went to his Ridgeland home after he shot himself on Friday. They say Mayfield’s arrest was politically motivated by supporters of Cochran, who defeated McDaniel in a contentious primary runoff that the state senator has yet to concede.

“It’s the highest degree of abuse of power,” said Ridgeland Alderman Wesley Hamlin, Mayfield’s nephew.

(Bobic)

John Reeves, brother-in-law to the deceased, noted that the arrest cost Mayfield his career as a transactional lawyer: “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.” While one can certainly empathize, there is also something of cynicism that rises in the context of an appeal to emotion; the family is also upset that Mayfield was accused at all, and also at the manner in which he was arrested: “They treated him like a criminal.”

Yeah, you know? That part where you want to say, “Well, that’s what happens when you get arrested!”

But this is an exceptionally difficult time; it is easy enough to cut Mr. Reeves a break on that point. Perhaps the hardest devastation awaits: “He was so shocked at being accused of something he didn’t do,” Reeves explained of Mayfield.

What Mayfield was accused of is itself a bit obscure, but essentially, as Patrik Jonsson explained:

Mr. Mayfield was charged on May 22 with conspiring with three other men to take a photo of Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife, Rose, who is in a nursing home. The photo was used briefly as part of an anti-Cochran ad. Mayfield didn’t take the photo, but allegedly used knowledge of the facility to help a blogger gain access.

There is no question that this qualifies as one of the most sordid political episodes in recent memory, but this one was beyond the pale well before it picked up a death toll.

And while we know that some police have a weird thing for stormin’ the joint with guns drawn, well, yeah, that’s the thing: Was this not problematic before?

And, yes, it’s easy to imagine a prosecutor asking for an arrest warrant based on sketchy evidence. To the one, we will most likely find out what that evidence is before this is all over; to the other, let us grant the presupposition of Mayfield’s absolute innocence, and ask ourselves whether the idea that a public attorney seeks an arrest warrant based on sketchy evidence is really so unusual. Again, was this not problematic before?

These things go on.

You get arrested, and, what’s more, in a downright stupid scandal. Because of this, you lose your career. Your name is destroyed. And your candidate loses in a controversial election that has your allies absolutely screaming, yet it appears what the other side did was tap an available, previously ignored constituency resource. As dark nights of the soul go, that one is pretty damn dark. Even the best of go-getters would have a hard time, after all the logistical and technical details of one’s recovery are accounted for, facing up to this sort of public pillory.

And it is also possible that this will work out in a straightforward manner, and the only people Mayfield’s family have to go after are his co-conspirators. It is easy enough to imagine circumstances by which he is both innocent and guilty; the problem he faced is that ignorance is not bliss before the law. And there is nothing unusual about that.

Whatever else, this is a proper tragedy.

Unfortunately, it is also political slapstick.

Beyond the pale, of course.

____________________

Bobic, Igor. “Family Of Mississippi Tea Party Leader Who Committed Suicide Plans Legal Action”. The Huffington Post. 1 July 2014.

Jonsson, Patrik. “Tea party leader Mark Mayfield suicide: A sign of politics ‘beyond the pale’?”. The Christian Science Monitor. 28 June 2014.

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