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Former Mississippi Mayor Sent to Prison

A federal judge in Mississippi has sentenced William Grady Sims, 61, the former mayor of Walnut Grove who also served as warden of a privately-operated correctional facility, to 7 months in federal prison for telling a prisoner to lie to investigators about a sexual encounter.

Sims served as mayor of Walnut Grove, population of about 1,900, on a part-time basis from his 1981 election until his forced resignation upon pleading guilty to federal charges. The February 14, 2012 plea bargain bars Sims from ever holding public office again.

His plea to a charge of witness intimidation also resulted in the dismissal of a sexual assault charge stemming from when Sims was employed as warden of the Walnut Grove Transition Center, which was operated by private prison firm GEO Group at the time.

On or about November 26, 2009, Sims took a female prisoner at the facility to a hotel in the nearby town of Carthage and had sex with her. The woman's name was not revealed; Sims was secretly recorded in March 2010 telling her "to lie to investigators," which led to the witness intimidation charge. [See: PLN, Aug. 2012, p.45; April 2012, p.1].

At his April 24, 2012 sentencing hearing, Sims informed the district court that he had lost his job as mayor and his personal vending business, and had "suffered shame and disgrace."

"I am ashamed and sorrowful to be here ... I have been a Christian for many years and I fell away from God," he told the court.

In asking for mercy, his attorney, Chris Collins, said there are times when "it just takes a moment of being selfish or self-gratifying to lose everything. He's lost a lot already."

"Sometimes good men and good people do bad things," federal judge David Bramlette acknowledged. Still, he noted that "the truth is always the best resolution, no matter how bitter the truth may be."

In addition to 7 months in prison, Sims was ordered to serve six months on house arrest followed by two years of supervised release.

"Those who hold public office have a duty to serve with integrity. The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute those who choose to violate the public trust by putting their personal interests ahead of the public's interest," stated U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis.

Meanwhile, the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor said Sims had not paid more than $31,500 for using city employees and city equipment to perform work at the Walnut Grove facility and on other private property.

Sources: The Clarion Ledger, Associated Press, U.S. Attorney's press release (April 24, 2012)

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