Jury clears DA on robbery charge, can’t decide on stalking
BRANDON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi jury on Wednesday found a prosecutor not guilty of robbery but could not reach a verdict on a stalking charge.
Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith was on trial next door in Rankin County. The aggravated stalking charge against him ended with a hung jury Wednesday night, news outlets reported.
Attorney General Jim Hood’s office prosecuted the case, which was connected to an August 2015 incident between Smith, Smith’s former girlfriend Christie Edwards and a man named William Fears at a house Smith owned in Pearl. The robbery charge dealt with Smith taking Edwards’ handgun.
Smith testified in his own defense. Witnesses said Smith pointed a gun after looking in a closet and seeing Fears, who was having a relationship with Edwards.
If convicted, Smith would have faced 15 years in prison on the robbery charge and five years on the aggravated stalking charge. A conviction would have meant Smith’s removal from office.
This was the third time that the attorney general’s office tried a case against Smith, who is elected in the state’s most populous county. In 2017, Hinds County jurors acquitted Smith of hindering-prosecution charges after Hood accused Smith of providing aid to a defendant who faced multiple charges, including drug possession. An earlier jury could not reach a verdict on the same matter.
Smith’s testimony on Wednesday answered testimony from Edwards and Fears on Tuesday over whether Smith had pointed a gun at either of them or had threatened, “I’ll do it.”
Smith said he merely withdrew his badge and “flashed” his gun, hoping to “de-escalate” the situation, news outlets reported. He said he never pulled his gun from the holster and said that he said, “Don’t do it,” not “I’ll do it.”
Smith didn’t deny taking Edwards’ handgun. His lawyers have said he was trying to defuse a dangerous situation and was acting as a district attorney.
Smith acknowledged pushing Edwards, which Smith and another witness on Tuesday said left her bruised.
“I pushed her lightly the first time, hoping to exit the (home),” Smith said. “I had to push her again with more force to leave.”
Edwards said she was living in a home Smith owns in Pearl, even after she had broken up with him, when he showed up one day in 2015.
“He swung me around, threw me up against the counter and the door frame, and that’s when I asked, ‘Where’s my gun,’” Edwards testified.
Smith is separately indicted on two counts of domestic violence, a case that could be prosecuted later.
Edwards said she waited a year to file charges out of fear of retaliation.
″‘You can call whoever the (expletive) you want to call, nothing will come of this,’” Edwards said Smith told her during the August 2015 incident.
Fears said Smith found him hiding in a closet. Fears testified he began a romantic relationship with Edwards after she discovered Smith was having an affair with Fears’ wife. Fears testified he was “deathly afraid of Smith” because of what he had heard about him.