Attorneys speak on Jerrell Powe kidnapping case

Legal folks: It could take months to sift the evidence in the Powe kidnapping case
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 6:20 PM CST
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PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - An accused conman.

A National Football League player.

A marijuana grower.

Worried investors.

Owed money.

And a conspiracy for kidnapping.

Ridgeland City Attorney Boty McDonald said a mountain of electronic evidence tie Jerrell Powe and co-conspirators to the Bryce Mathis kidnapping case that happened Jan. 12.

“One of the benefits of this case and investigating it is you don’t have to interview electronic communications,” McDonald said. “The folks who have been arrested and others have shown us what they were thinking and planning to do based on text messages and voice mail and voice messages and things like that.”

Powe, a former NFL player, was arrested alongside California suspect Gavin Bates. Both were charged with kidnapping Mathis. Investigators say they drove him from Laurel to Ridgeland, and took him to Chase Bank to make a withdrawal.

The investigation revealed that Powe was an investor and Bates a grower for a medical marijuana business fronted by Mathis.

Powe’s attorney Tom Fortner describes this business as a con game orchestrated by Mathis.

“It’s just a con.” Fortner said. “It was all just a con as far as we know.”

Fortner disputes the claims that there’s evidence of kidnapping.

”I have yet to see any evidence whatsoever,” Fortner said. “I’ve heard talks about text messages. I’ve heard talks about a group telephone conversation where supposedly there is some firm hard evidence this is a kidnapping, but I haven’t seen any.”

But McDonald says the city did not take any of the charges lightly and considerable discussion and investigation took place before the arrests.

“Kidnapping can happen in a microsecond when you prevent someone from being able to leave,” McDonald said. “This took place over 30 hours, maybe 32, 33 hours. Maybe he was not allowed to leave. Look, this boils down to the fact that you can’t kidnap someone to collect a debt.”

Additionally, Wayne County Board of Supervisors Attorney Cooper Leggett was arrested at his home on a conspiracy charge in connection with this case.

Another person, Angela McClelland of Katy, Texas, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

“Now, since this has happened and I’ve started representing Jerrell, I can’t tell you how many telephone calls I’ve gotten from all over the country -- not just confined to Mississippi by any means -- and people from all walks of life who want to be character witnesses against Bryce Mathis for Jerrell Powe and even for the other people who have been arrested and charged in this alleged kidnapping,” Fortner said.

“Mississippi Today” wrote that it spoke with more than half a dozen people who said Mathis either owed them money or failed to make promised investments.

By their own tally, they estimate Mathis could owe a combined $1.2 million.

In some cases, Mathis paid back his creditors, but only after they put immense pressure on him, and even then, the money came from another individual.

Meanwhile, Jerrell Powe took to social media saying, “Thank you to my family and friends that’s supported me. I love y’all. Just know I’m doing good and we gone be fine.”

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