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5 plead not guilty in welfare fraud case in Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Trial dates have been set for the former head of Mississippi's welfare agency and some other people. They are charged with misusing money that was intended to help needy people in the nation's poorest state. John Davis is former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. He has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is set to start June 1. State Auditor Shad White announced Feb. 5 that Davis and the others had been indicted on state criminal charges in a “sprawling conspiracy.” White said investigators believe at least $4 million in federal welfare money was stolen.


Brother testifies about man charged with killing 8 people

MAGNOLIA, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi man on trial in the 2017 shooting deaths of eight people had previously helped two of those who were killed. That's according to one of his brothers, who testified Thursday. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against 37-year-old Willie Cory Godbolt. Among those killed were an 18-year-old and an 11-year-old. Godbolt had spent time with them and helped them with sports, according to his older brother Chris Godbolt Jr.. A sheriff's deputy and some of Willie Cory Godbolt's relatives were among those killed. The shootings happened at three houses.


Man dies after driving car into home, lighting it on fire

TOOMSUBA, Miss. (AP) — An east Mississippi man is dead after officials say he drove a car into his mobile home, lit it on fire, and refused to come out. Lauderdale County Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun tells WTOK-TV that 35-year-old Tony Gerzsenye died Wednesday night. Calhoun says Gerzsenye was found barricaded in a bedroom and appears to have died of smoke inhalation. Calhoun says Gerzsenye was arguing with a woman at his home before he drove the car into it. Calhoun says deputies saw Gerzsenye lighting curtains on fire inside. Gerzsenye ignored pleas to come out. Calhoun says no one could enter until firefighters arrived.


Court rules ex-officer must register as sex offender

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court overturned a decision that allowed a former police officer not to register as a sex offender after he was convicted of having sex with a woman on probation under state supervision. Justin Codey Herrington was convicted in August 2016 of having a consensual sexual relationship with a probationer while he was a Columbia police officer. He filed a motion to drop the sex offender registration requirement, arguing that the woman was not a prisoner. The motion was granted in December 2018. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety appealed, stating the woman was an offender regardless of whether she was incarcerated or under probation. The Supreme Court agreed Thursday and reversed the decision.


Mississippi rep cleared in abuse case won't be expelled

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — The leader of the Mississippi House says that representatives don't have the power to expel a colleague who was found not guilty in a domestic abuse case. Republican Rep. Doug McLeod was charged and acquitted last year as he ran unopposed for a third term. Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn tells the Sun Herald newspaper that a representative can only be punished for violating a House rule, a state law or the state constitution. The newspaper's website on Thursday published audio from 911 calls and video from an officer's body camera at the McLeods' home.


Council president voted out of office in residency dispute

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — The city council president in an east Mississippi city has been removed from office after fellow council members determined he didn't live in his district. The Meridian Star reports Meridian City Council President Tyrone Johnson was ousted Friday. Other council members say Johnson moved out of the ward after buying a house in another ward in October. Johnson says he is temporarily living in that house after his lease on a residence in his own ward expired in January. He says he is “aggressively” seeking another residence in his own ward. The council will set a special election to fill the vacancy.