I heard about this a couple days ago and just had to post on it. Newly elected or re-elected Mississippi state officials took their oaths of office on Thursday, and among these officials was AG Jim Hood.
Although Hood was highly visible, outspoken and leading the charge against insurance companies post-Katrina, lately he has become what some refer to — OK, what I refer to — as the Prisoner of High Street (the location of his office). Ever since State Farm got an injunction against his criminal investigation of the insurer and especially since the Scruggs hit the fan, Hood has been about as vocal as Marcel Marceau doing meditation.
Now, from what I can see, Hood is an energetic law enforcement official. I follow Katrina-related events, but I’m not in a position to judge his total performance in office nor do I care to — I will leave that to the residents of Mississippi, who spoke in the last election. I’ve read about some of his prosecutions and investigations, and some of these have struck me as very worthy and laudable efforts. But you’d think such an official would be all over this Scruggs stuff, in the absence of countervailing factors or reasons, such as perhaps his previous closeness to Scruggs making an investigation unpalatable in several ways. Still, he is bound to uphold the law of Mississippi and as numerous readers have pointed out to me, the federal charges and continuing federal investigation certainly do not preclude the application of Mississippi law nor do they prevent a concurrent state investigation. For example, post-Katrina, Hood conducted a criminal investigation through a state grand jury into potential abuses in Katrina claims adjusting by insurers, even as a federal grand jury and the U.S. Attorney in southern Mississippi reportedly were doing much the same thing, not to mention all the hoo-ha in Congress.
But what did Hood announce as his priorities in office at his swearing-in? Here’s a story that says what.
Hood said he’s looking forward to continuing his fight against cybercrime and those committed against the elderly and children. Hood said his office had also begun a new initiative targeting counterfeit products from overseas.
Hood said the products include counterfeit drugs, brake pads, contact lenses and lead-contaminated toys.
I am not making this up. Fake contact lenses and toys. Can you imagine? Isn’t that a little like having a sideline pass at the Super Bowl but instead of following the game sitting at the concession stand eating hot dogs and watching a DVD about how to install a bathroom fan?
Hood, by the way, was among the luminaries at Friday’s investiture ceremony for federal judge Sharion Aycock in Fulton, Mississippi. Among the crowd of several hundred were a couple judges from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and Tony Farese, who continues as Zach Scruggs’ attorney after seeking to withdraw but being blocked from doing so for the time being by Judge Biggers. The Scruggs case was, as one would expect, discussed discretely and in hushed tones among many attendees. If Hood said anything about the case to anyone, I didn’t hear about it.
UPDATE: My attention has been called to this story in today’s Clarion Ledger about a new anti-crime initiative in Jackson. Included in the list of the crime-busting cooperative is about every possible police force and agency except, hilariously, one you would expect to see front and center. See if you can figure it out from this excerpt:
Before Robert Shuler Smith was sworn in as the new Hinds County district attorney, we noted that more state resources should be applied to Jackson/Hinds crime fighting.
One Monday, after Smith was sworn in, Gov. Haley Barbour, U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton and newly elected Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant announced a $3.5 million, two-year crime-fighting package.
"Every citizen of our state has an interest in having a safe and secure Capital City. By working together, this initiative will bring new resources in identifying, prosecuting, convicting, and removing the worst criminal offenders from the streets of Jackson," Barbour said.
The funding will provide for a full-time-equivalent special Circuit Court judge, two new assistant district attorneys, one new public defender, and additional support staff.
It also will fund an investigations team to include members of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Jackson Police and Hinds Sheriff’s Department, with federal agencies, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the FBI.