Congressman weighs in on Hattiesburg federal investigations

Congressman weighs in on Hattiesburg federal investigations

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate recent Hattiesburg federal investigation he alleged are racially and politically motivated.

In his letter, Rep. Thompson asks U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to "directly investigate organized targeting of the African-American community in the form of prosecutions and other intimidation methods in furtherance of a local political agenda."

Thompson lists several instances of alleged targeting, including federal indictments issued against Kenneth Fairley and Forrest County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Charles Bolton.

"All of the complaints that I have received stem from the 2013 municipal elections in the City of Hattiesburg," Thompson said. "This particular mayoral election was bitterly fought and was divided, chiefly, along racial lines as many elections are in Mississippi. At the very least, this is a case of overreaching by local, state and federal officials as a way of punishing political enemies. At its worst, this is a case of concerted action by many federal and state officials. to target and manipulate the actions of African-Americans in Hattiesburg, Mississippi."

Mississippi State Auditor Stacey Pickering said he is confident in state and federal investigators and said he thinks the validity will be proven in court.

"I am confident in the professionalism and the work that is done by our investigators at the state level as well as our federal counterparts, not only on these specific cases, but all the cases we've worked together across the state of Mississippi," Pickering said. "I think when we have our day in court, we'll be proven to have been good stewards of the taxpayers time, money, resources and the charge that we've been given as law enforcement officers to protect and defend the reputation, the integrity and uphold the laws of the state of Mississippi and the United States of America."

Thompson sent the letter to the Department of Justice in April, but just received a response in August from U.S. Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik saying the allegations are under review by the Office of Professional Responsibility and Office of the Inspector General.