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Mayor cites at least 8 other interventions in criminal cases

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Feb. 15, 2001
Mayor John Robert Smith has intervened at least eight times in criminal cases, making decisions on who would be prosecuted in certain cases or giving the police permission to perform tactical maneuvers in life threatening hostage situations.
Smith's office provided The Meridian Star with a list of times during his administration when he intervened in police matters.
Smith told The Star last week he routinely makes decisions regarding police issues when it involves a "major crime or event," including when the police have a "shoot or don't shoot" situation.
The intervention list includes the mayor's decision not to seek prosecution of a former Meridian police officer on misdemeanor charges of fraud and not to prosecute offenders who accidentally burned down a local church. Smith opted to prosecute a high-ranking police officer who was part of a felony investigation at one time, although he declined to get into specifics about individual cases.
Smith maintains making such decisions is a responsibility of being mayor. He said the process is part of having a civilian-run government instead of a military dictatorship.
Most recently Smith made the decision not to prosecute a woman after she falsely reported a rape. Mayor Smith told The Star "no good could come" from her prosecution and that the family had children and to prosecute her would have been to exacerbate any emotional problems she already had.
Meridian Police Chief Gregg Lewis declined comment when asked if the alleged victim was the wife of an employee of his department. The mayor also declined to identify any of the individuals involved.
According to papers provided by Mayor Smith's office, there have been 11 rapes since 1994 that proved to be false charges and in which no charges were filed against the alleged victim for providing false information.
Smith said he was involved in determining not to charge the women for filing false police reports in "several" of the cases. But he declined to state a specific number because he wasn't sure of how many of the cases in which he was personally involved.
Smith said many factors are weighed when determining when to prosecute certain individuals and when not to prosecute certain individuals.
Smith's office provided three instances when the mayor was on the scene during hostage stand-off situations in the past. He said his presence at these scenes was for both moral support and tactical input into any potential police action.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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