In a hearing today in Jefferson County Circuit Court, T’kia Bevily and her Sweet team of attorneys stood before Judge Tomika Irving as she faced contempt of court charges for repeated violations of a gag order. Families on both sides are under a gag order, however Mrs. Bevily has been off the radar publicly for some months, while her brother Christopher Smith and her mother Audrey Smith Gray have been very vocal.
The prosecution filed a motion which alleged “indirect criminal contempt” charges against the group. The filing immediately followed Smith’s publication of a purported polygraph exam Mrs. Bevily had passed. A polygraph exam is not admissible in court due to the level of unreliability of polygraphs. Read more here about the specifics involving Mr. Smith and the “Dream Team.”
But it doesn’t end there. Smith launched an advertising campaign from his support page specifically targeting residents of Monroe County, where his sister’s trial has been moved from Claiborne County. The matter, according to Judge Irving’s order, is under criminal investigation. The agency for such an investigation, in these circumstances, would be MBI.
According to MS-Code 95-3-19, Smith, his mother Audrey Smith Gray, and others could face three to six months in jail and/or fines. The statute is as follows:
“In case of the violation of any injunction or closing order granted under provisions of this chapter, or of a restraining order or the commission of any other contempt of court in proceedings under this chapter, the court, or the chancellor in vacation, may summarily try and punish the offender. The proceedings shall be commenced by filing with the clerk of the court a complaint upon oath setting out and alleging facts constituting such violation, upon which the court or chancellor shall cause a warrant to issue, under which the defendant shall be arrested. The trial thereof may be had upon affidavits or either party may demand the production and oral examination of the witnesses. A party found guilty of contempt under the provisions of this chapter shall be punished by a fine of not less than two hundred nor more than one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail not less than three nor more than six months or by both such fine and imprisonment.“
Mrs. Bevily’s attorney, Dennis Sweet III, has a documented history of improperly influencing a jury, as evidenced in a Mississippi Supreme Court ruling. The Supreme Court reversed a $10.5 million Coahoma County jury’s award and remanded it back to the lower court for retrial due to Sweet’s actions. Sweet now stands in what is undoubtedly a bitter, yet all-to-familiar position, and many eyes are on him and his son to see what will happen next.
In her order, Judge Irving prohibited support groups from either side of the matter from publishing anything more before the trial.
Given the matter is one of “indirect criminal contempt”, state law mandates a special judge be appointed by the Mississippi Supreme Court. Irving stated in her order,
“THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED AND ADJUDGED, that Tomika H. Irving, Judge of the 22nd Circuit Court District, is hereby disqualified from presiding over the indirect criminal contempt matter and requests the Chief Justice of the State of Mississippi Supreme Court to appoint a special judge to hear this matter as provided by law.”
Order recusing herself to have a special judge appointed to oversee the criminal contempt prosecution:Order of Disqualification
New, supplemental gag order:Renewed Supplemantal Order
Order barring campaigning for sides around the courthouse during trial.No Display Slogans Likeness around court