ACKERMAN — Former Webster County Sheriff Tim Mitchell has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, weeks after pleading guilty to four felony charges. A former investigator was sentenced to 10 years on related charges.
Mitchell pleaded guilty June 12 to two counts of embezzlement by a public official and two counts of trafficking in stolen firearms, and resigned from his position the same day. Landon Griffin, former chief investigator with the Webster County Sheriff’s Department, pleaded guilty June 17 to one count each of embezzlement by a public official and transfer of a stolen firearm.
Circuit Judge Joey Loper sentenced both men July 30 at the Choctaw County Courthouse, accepting sentencing recommendations the District Attorney’s Office made when they pleaded guilty.
Loper sentenced Mitchell to serve 20 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections on one count of embezzlement, with five years suspended. Mitchell must serve the remaining 15 years, followed by five years supervised probation. He received 15-year sentences on each of the other three counts, which will run at the same time.
Loper also accepted the state’s recommendation to dismiss the six remaining counts for which Mitchell had been indicted: attempted sexual activity between sheriff and inmate, intimidating a witness, attempted tampering with physical evidence, furnishing contraband to an inmate, tampering with a witness and sale, possession or use of a controlled substance in a jail facility.
Loper sentenced Griffin to serve 15 years in MDOC custody on his embezzlement charge, with five years suspended. He must serve the remaining 10 years, followed by five years supervised probation. A five-year sentence on the other count will run at the same time.
Loper sustained the state’s motion to dismiss the remaining four counts against Griffin — three additional counts of embezzlement by a public officer and one additional count of transfer of a stolen firearm.
Mitchell, 54, and Griffin, 40, must also pay all court costs, fees and assessments. Mitchell was represented by attorney Austin Vollor while Griffin was represented by attorneys Francis Springer and Michael Cory.
Loper’s pronouncement of both judgments, including terms of probation, took less than 20 minutes total. The judge made no remarks beyond the basic sentencing procedure for each man, nor did Mitchell or Griffin have any questions when the judge inquired. A courtroom spectator said “Amen” each time Loper ordered MDOC to take immediate custody of the defendants.
Both men were transported to the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility near Pearl, where they remained in the Receiving and Classification Unit as of Monday, according to MDOC’s website.
Both men had initially been indicted in January and had been free on bond, with Mitchell on house arrest. They were originally co-indicted on one count each of embezzlement and trafficking in stolen firearms. Griffin was also indicted separately on one count each of embezzlement and trafficking in stolen firearms.
However, both men were reindicted May 21: Mitchell on a single 10-count indictment and Griffin on a single six-count indictment.
Mitchell specifically pleaded guilty to embezzling and trafficking a stolen Taurus .38-caliber revolver and a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handgun between Oct. 1-31, 2017; and embezzling and trafficking a stolen 45-caliber handgun and a Ruger 9mm handgun between Oct. 1-31, 2018.
Griffin specifically pleaded guilty to embezzling a stolen SCCY Industries 9mm handgun between Oct. 16, 2017, and Sept. 27, 2018, and transferring it on or about the latter date.
When Mitchell was arrested in December, The Associated Press cited a sworn statement by a Mississippi Bureau of Investigation agent that detailed the charges against him. AP reported from the statement that Mitchell ordered a deputy (not identified in the article) to remove four guns from his department’s evidence locker and sell or give at least some to a department employee and an inmate.
In a transcript of the court proceedings when Griffin pleaded guilty, District Attorney Doug Evans said the handgun the deputy sheriff embezzled was also a piece of evidence being held by the Sheriff’s Department in the evidence procedure. Evans said the evidence bag that the pistol was taken out of had been cut open and found at Griffin’s house, and that he traded the firearm for another one. Mitchell fired Griffin after the former sheriff was arrested in December.
Another former sheriff’s office employee was also indicted in January. Santana Gary is charged with two counts of sexual activity between jailer and inmate, furnishing contraband to an inmate and sale, possession or use of a controlled substance in a jail facility. She has pleaded not guilty and her case has been continued until January.
Andy McCants is serving out the remainder of Mitchell’s term until a new sheriff takes office in January. The former chief deputy and investigator with the Sheriff’s Department was appointed acting sheriff in January and then sheriff in June after Mitchell resigned.
Tuesday’s Democratic primary in Webster County included three candidates for sheriff: William “Bill” Bland, David Gore and Casey Henderson. The Progress-Times went to press before election results were available.
A runoff will be Aug. 27 if necessary. The Democratic primary winner will face Republican Jeffrey Mann and Independent Calvin “Brad” Robinson in November’s general election.