New Facebook messages reviewed and reported on by The New York Times on Monday reveal a plan to photograph U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Mississippi) bed-ridden wife in a nursing home. Those efforts led to multiple arrests and escalating tension in the last two weeks of Mississippi’s U.S. Senate Republican primary.
The Times’ Campbell Robertson uncovered the messages while examining the events that preceded the suicide of Mark Mayfield, a local Tea Party leader who was one of those arrested in the alleged conspiracy to photograph Rose Cochran. Those photographs were included as part of a video posted on the blog of local activist “Constitutional Clayton” Kelly, who police allege snuck into Rose Cochran’s nursing home and photographed her without consent.
The new Facebook messages — involving Kelly, Mayfield, and John Mary, the former co-host of a conservative talk-radio show with Cochran’s challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel — provide evidence there was a plan to photograph Rose Cochran as a way to draw attention to Cochran’s relationship with a female staffer.
According to the Times, Mayfield was asked in the messages to take the picture of Rose Cochran, since his mother was staying in the same nursing home. He declined, but said he would provide Kelly with another person who could help him execute the plan. This person has not been named or charged.
From the Times:
Mr. Mary and Mr. Kelly hoped to propel rumours about the state of Mr. Cochran’s marriage that had been circulated on social media by McDaniel supporters as a kind of subterranean campaign issue. Mr. Kelly and Mr. Mary planned to make a video, but were unsure how to get a current picture of Mr. Cochran’s wife in the nursing home.
Mr. Mayfield did not take part in these exchanges. But he was contacted at one point, apparently by Mr. Mary, and asked to take Ms. Cochran’s picture, since his own mother was in St. Catherine’s. He declined. Instead, according to the message traffic, he agreed to set Mr. Kelly up with someone else — a person who has not been named or charged — who could help Mr. Kelly carry out his plan.
The nursing-home caper roiled the last two weeks of the primary, and the bitterness exhibited by both candidates carried over into the runoff election. Three days after the runoff election, police say, Mayfield killed himself in his home, something the Times portrayed as coming after he “lost his political appetite” and became detached from his job and family following his arrest.
McDaniel’s supporters were infuriated at the way Mayfield was treated in the scandal, with some going so far as accusing Cochran’s allies of being responsible for his death.
When contacted on Monday by Business Insider, Robert Sanders, the assistant police chief at the Madison Police Department, said he was unaware of the Times story. Sanders said he would send the information included in the story to the department’s legal team to see if he could comment further.
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