JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) -- Mississippi attorney general candidate Steve Simpson says incumbent Jim Hood used his office's investigatory power to get a video of him helping a friend out of jail and then used it for his campaign.
Hood's campaign told the Sun Herald Thursday that the video is public record and that Simpson used his own office's power to spring pal John Ruble, who had been booked for domestic violence, last year.
Simpson, a Republican, was the commissioner of the state's Department of Safety before running for the Attorney General's Office.
Simpson campaign manager Scott Paradise said Simpson received a call from a mutual friend indicating Ruble was in jail. Simpson then contacted the sheriff and inquired about his bond amount.
"The sheriff set a bond, and then Steve simply rode with his friend to pick Mr. Ruble up," Paradise said Friday.
However, the decision to release Ruble was "100 percent the sheriff's decision" and Simpson "had nothing to do with it," Paradise said.
Releasing on bond for a misdemeanor is very common, he explained. "There was nothing different about this."
Simpson's campaign said afterward, Hood assigned a special investigator to the situation knowing that Simpson was considering a run for the Attorney General's Office.
"The investigator closed the case and filed a report showing that no impropriety occurred," Paradise said. "The only piece of evidence they got was the video.
"At the time, Steve emphatically stated that he -- and the sheriff -- believed the sole purpose of this video acquisition was for use during a political campaign. And they were right."
The video, posted on YouTube this week, was leaked 13 days before the election -- well within the time frame of Freedom of Information Act restrictions, Paradise said.
"We put in a FOIA yesterday for the FOIA history regarding this document," he said Friday. "If it wasn't FOIA-ed by someone, we'd like to know how the heck it got out.
"The only copy that was made of the video was the one that was supposedly filed away in the closed-investigation in the Attorney General's Office."
Simpson's campaign maintains the video leak is "100 percent nothing more than a political slander."
"We returned the guy's contributions by donating them to a domestic violence charity. He is not affiliated with the campaign in any way, shape or form," Paradise said.
"Steve did absolutely nothing improper and Jim Hood knows it -- his office was the one that determined Steve did nothing improper.
"To me, it looks like Jim Hood's legal standard is 'innocent ... until you run against me.'"
Hood's campaign manager Jonathan Compretta responded in a statement to the Mississippi newspaper:
"Rather than worry about how a public record became public, Steve Simpson should explain to the battered women of Mississippi why he used his position as public safety commissioner to get a friend out of jail... in violation of a judge's order," he said.
Mississippi voters head to the polls Nov. 8.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at email@example.com.