Bond denied again for former Pine Belt police officer

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - A former Lamar County Sheriff's deputy and Hattiesburg police sergeant has been denied bond in a Monday morning motion hearing in Lamar County Circuit Court.

Averal "Junior" Burnett, 47, is charged with one count of forcible rape, and appeared before Circuit Court Judge Tony Mozingo for a motion hearing to request a bail to be set. Burnett was previously denied bond by Justice Court Judge, Charles Greer, which was requested by the state, due to the consideration of alleged threats to law enforcement officers and victims along with being considered a flight risk.

During Monday's hearing, Burnett took the stand to testify, stating his training, connections and ties to Lamar County, and his career background.  During testimony, Burnett was asked about the allegations against him, to which he replied, "I'm innocent." When asked by attorney Scotty Chabert if he was suicidal, Burnett responded, "No sir, that is a cowards way out, and I am innocent."

Assistant District Attorney Doug Miller questioned Burnett, going over the different avenues of training that he (Burnett) has received over the years. Burnett listed several areas of training; patrol, S.W.A.T., chemical weapons instructor, firearms, undercover work, as well as K-9 training.

Burnett's mother, Sandra Graham took the stand, testifying on her sons behalf stating that if released she and her husband would comply with any and all regulations set by the judge. Graham also stated that she did not think that Burnett was a threat to the community or a flight risk.

Mississippi Bureau of Investigations Investigator Thomas Little took the stand on behalf of the state, where he testified to evidence that was collected for the case. Some of the evidence included, "bed sheets, pillow cases, a comforter and a few pieces of under garments," said Little. When questioned if Burnett was thought to be a threat to others, Little replied "yes sir."

Little's testimony also revealed that multiple flash-bangs and tear gas canisters were recovered from an ammunitions box in the living room of a residence associated with Burnett. MBI investigators are still working to determine why exactly he had those types of items, since it had been over 18 months when he was last employed with the Hattiesburg Police Department.

When asked how long ago the items were issued by the Hattiesburg Police Department. Junior responded "years ago, last time they were used we had to call the fire department."

Evidence is still being processed at the state crime lab and is expected to be back in a week or so, according to assistant district attorney Doug Miller. The case is expected to be presented to the August grand jury.

After Mozingo issued his ruling of bond being denied, Burnett was escorted out by deputies, as he blew a kiss to his parents, and mouthed "I love you."

Burnett served the majority of his 22 years in law enforcement with the Hattiesburg Police Department and officially retired from the Lamar County Sheriff's department on May 16, 2014.

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