A Gulfport federal court jury rendered a $260,000 verdict last week against former Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd. Here is the Sun Herald’s article on the verdict. Here is the Complaint.
The plaintiff also sued Jackson County, which prevailed in the lawsuit. As for Byrd’s conduct, the Sun Herald reports:
Seibert said she had been in the public affairs job for just two months when Byrd tried to influence a judge in a child-custody case involving Seibert’s daughter. She said Byrd met “behind closed doors” with the judge in the case and then told her she was “his baby.”
In addition, Seibert said Byrd ordered meetings with her behind closed doors, during which he touched her inappropriately and asked her at one point to meet him at a hunting camp to have sex.
On another occasion, she said, Byrd stood so close to her she could smell his breath and told her, “You know you want to kiss me.”
In other instances, Seibert said Byrd grabbed her buttocks, rubbed his hand up her leg and said at one point he wanted to “taste” her.
On another occasion, she said, Byrd told her he loved her and wanted her and gave her a gold necklace to show he was “serious” about her. Seibert turned the necklace over the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office.
Seibert said Byrd also started making threats to move her to another job if she continued to refuse his advances, saying she should be “loyal” to him and threatened that if she left the department, “he would ruin her career and give her a bad recommendation.”
Byrd resigned in 2013 after kicking a man in the nuts and then ordering the destruction of a video of the attack.
Here is the jury verdict.
The jury found for the plaintiff on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, but for the defendants on the sexual harassment claim. That results in a a verdict against Byrd, but not Jackson County.
Monte Tynes and Keith Miller of Pascagoula represented the plaintiff.Harry Mullen of Pascagoula represented Byrd. Paula Yancey and Ryan Frederic of Pascagoula represented Jackson County.
District Judge Keith Starrett presided in the case.
Is Jackson County the big winner in this case?
This verdict may not be great news for the plaintiff. A verdict against the county would be easier to collect. A verdict for sexual harassment would open the door for an award of attorney’s fees.
What was the jury thinking? How was that not sexual harassment? A boss playing grab-ass and demanding that an employee meet him for sex is not sexual harassment? Good lord!
Byrd is a blight on the record of all the crooked sheriffs on the Coast who preceded him. What ever happened to gentlemen crooked sheriffs like Leroy Hobbs?