A misdemeanor disturbing the peace case against Pike County’s Republican Party chairman, filed last year after he contested a candidate’s qualifications as she went to cast her vote, has been delayed, with a specially appointed judge chiding the prosecutor for being unprepared.
Bobby McDaniel was charged after attempting to prevent Pike County Tax Assessor candidate Renada Taylor-Cain from voting at the Progress Fire Station polling precinct during the Aug. 6 Democratic primary, claiming she wasn’t a legal resident of Pike County.
On Tuesday in Pike County Court, County Prosecutor David Brewer asked Judge Tim Odom for a continuance to allow time to contact potential witnesses for testimony.
Cain told Odom that she first received notice of the trial date on Friday evening.
Attorney Stewart Robison, representing McDaniel, said he understood Brewer’s objection, but noted that Brewer received the same notification and materials from court officials as he did.
Robison said he went to court twice to confirm the date of the trial and to instruct the court to issue witness subpoenas.
“Now, I understand the mail might take a day or two,” Robison said. “But she received the same notice.”
Odom said he was disappointed after driving two hours from Perry County only to leave after about half an hour and without conducting the long-scheduled trial.
He instructed Brewer to make sure all witness subpoenas are filed before Monday morning and to ensure they’re sent out.
“It’s obvious you’re prepared for court and the state isn’t prepared,” he said to McDaniel and Robison.
Robison said he would retire from practicing law next week and intends to move to Alabama. He said granting a continuation in the case would make it difficult for him to be present at trial.
He argued McDaniel came prepared to the trial with his witnesses present and on time.
“I have to object to this court’s continuance,” he said. “Cain can tell her side of the story, she was there.”
Odom said he understood the date of the trial to be Jan. 21 for at least a month and expressed concern about the apparent lack of communication between state counsel and the county court.
“Is it important for the State of Mississippi to have her witnesses?” Odom asked Brewer.
“They’re all fact-witnesses and would confirm what happened,” Brewer replied.
Judge Odom elected to grant the continuation after he said it became clear to him that state counsel and the county court did not properly notify Cain of the date of trial, therefore limiting her ability to issue witness subpoenas.
“I think the ball was dropped,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was, it’s the systems’ fault.”
During the brief hearing Tuesday, audience members groused over the proceeding only dealing with the charge against McDaniel and not Cain’s eligibility as a candidate.
“We’re here this morning for me to make a ruling on disturbing of the peace,” Odom said.
Cain lost the primary election to Angela Simmons, who was ultimately defeated by Republican incumbent Laurie Allen in the November general election.
Odom was called to preside over the case after Justice Court Judge Melvin Hollins granted McDaniel’s request to recuse himself because Hollins had run as a Democrat.
“I can honestly say that I have no knowledge about the case here today,” Odom said as he made an initial review of case materials.