Charge him? He ought to get a medal!

Via a diarist over at Kos, I give you the story of Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee, who is about to plead guilty to a charge of interfering with, intimidating and impeding a federal officer. His real crime? He sent trailers of ice to a distribution center in the days after Katrina that were sitting in a lot--he spent five hours trying to get in touch with FEMA first and took matters into his own hands.

McGee's decision to plead guilty prevents prosecution of three deputies who were with him at the FEMA staging site at Camp Shelby. He would not identify the deputies.

"I was told that I could either plead to this misdemeanor or I and my deputies would be indicted on felony charges," McGee said. "I've asked the government on three separate occasions to indict me and leave the deputies out of it because they were only acting at my direction."

Lampton's background in the National Guard - he is a retired judge advocate - and political pressure are factors in the case, McGee said.

"I feel like he's probably getting some pressure from the Mississippi National Guard," McGee said. "He told me the governor personally demanded I be prosecuted for this."

A spokesman for Lampton said he was in a meeting about FEMA Thursday and not available.

Pete Smith, spokesman for Gov. Haley Barbour, had no immediate comment on the accusation. A National Guard spokesman in Jackson said only Maj. Gen. Harold A. Cross, the state adjutant general, could comment on the incident and Cross was unavailable Thursday afternoon.

"I think it's totally wrong to charge the sheriff," said Terry Steed, executive director of the Forrest County Emergency Management District. "Right, wrong or indifferent, people were in need. He made no personal gain from anything he did; he was trying to help people. That's what we all were trying to do."

McGee provided the following account of the ice incident:

# Steed's office notified him at about 6:30 a.m. Sept. 4 that five trucks of ice and five of water were lost between Jackson and Hattiesburg and weren't expected to arrive that day.

# About 7 a.m., emergency management personnel told McGee of the FEMA staging area and suggested ice might be available there.

# McGee sent a deputy to Camp Shelby who returned with the message that FEMA officials there couldn't release the ice but had provided a phone number of someone who might be able to.

"I called that phone number periodically for the next five hours and never got an answer," McGee said.

# After 1 p.m., McGee and three deputies went to Camp Shelby. The FEMA staging area director reported he had not gotten authority to release two trucks of ice. In response to questions from McGee, he said two trucks which were idling were filled with ice and were not assigned to a destination.

"I told him I had tried for four or five hours to get somebody at that number," McGee said. "He kind of smirked and said, 'To be truthful, sheriff, there's nobody at that number who could release it.' "

# The drivers of the ice trucks were willing to follow deputies to the distribution sites in Petal and Brooklyn.

"As we started out of the staging area, a National Guardsman jumped on the side of the lead truck, either trying to get the keys or pull the driver out," McGee said.

# When the soldier refused to get off the truck, he was handcuffed, placed in a patrol car and driven to the sheriff's office where he was cited for interfering with an officer and released.
That guy who smirked is probably lucky he didn't wind up with at least a fat lip--I know a couple of Tangipahoa Parish sheriff's deputies who would have popped him good for pulling that kind of shit.

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