Pearson found guilty

Published 1:32 pm Friday, June 17, 2011

 A jury on Thursday found Anita Carol Pearson guilty of conspiracy to intimidate a witness.

The case that resulted in the charges on which Pearson was found guilty began in December 2008 as an investigation into allegations that agents with A-1 Outlaw Bonding, owned by Pearson, had targeted several people who were out on bond with her agency, kidnapped them and robbed them at gunpoint. While those charges against Pearson and her agents have yet to go before a grand jury, that investigation resulted in another investigation against Pearson for propositioning inmate, Jimmy Dale Frierson, to cause bodily harm to another inmate, Mark Harris, one of the several people who filed the robbery and kidnapping complaints.

The conspiracy to intimidate a witness case, which began in February 2009, was prosecuted for the state by Stanley Alexander of the Attorney General’s office and defended by Gulf Coast attorney Donald Rafferty.

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Pearson was charged with conspiracy to intimidate a witness after a Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department investigation showed she had contacted Jimmy Dale Frierson during a Justice Court hearing, using hand and mouth motions, in an attempt to have Frierson cause bodily harm to Mark Harris, said Pearl River County Sheriff’s Dept. investigator Shane Edgar who investigated the case along with the department’s Chief Investigator Donnie Saucier. Testimony by Frierson was that while he was in the Justice Court, Pearson mouthed the words “Do you still love me?” After he said he did, she used a hand motion across her throat and pointing gestures to Harris to indicate she wanted him to hurt Harris to stop him from testifying against her. Frierson would later write a letter to Circuit Judge R.I. Pritchard and ask to speak to a Sheriff’s Department investigator to inform them of Pearson’s intentions, sparking the investigation, Frierson testified.

The investigation involved three recorded cell phone conversations in which Pearson could be heard conspiring with Frierson to cause bodily harm to Harris, after which she would give him a $100 bill. The taped conversations were played multiple times to the jury during all four days of deliberation, Pearson brought up “the other little matter.” She testified while on the stand that the “other little matter” pertained to Mark Harris. She said during her testimony that she was trying to get Frierson to investigate Harris, not cause him bodily harm.

In the recording played to the jury Frierson can be heard asking Pearson, “You  want me to tear his ass up,” referring to Harris, and Pearson can clearly be heard saying “Yes, yes indeed.” During a third conversation on another day, Frierson again asked if she wanted him to cause Harris harm. The tape ended with Pearson saying, “Yes, Hell (blank)ing yes!”

The defense attempted to explain away the statements by saying Pearson interjected words between Frierson’s words on all recorded conversations, which Rafferty said changed the meaning of the conversations, and that there were multiple conversations going on at the same time.

Justice Court Judge John Mark Mitchell, who was called by the defense, said that on the day Pearson made the hand motion to Frierson in Justice Court, there was a disturbance in his courtroom. While Mitchell could not say that he saw what caused the disturbance because he was looking down at his paper work at the  time, nor could he say that he saw Pearson make the motion with her hand across her throat, he did say several people indicated to him that “someone” did make such a hand motion, and that was the cause for the disturbance.

During one of the conversations where Pearson was talking with Frierson, she said that if he would send someone up to her office, she would give the person $100 for Frierson. Pearson said on the stand that the $100 was for Frierson’s use in the commissary, as compensation for providing her with bonding business, not for harming Harris.

Alexander presented evidence concerning a confidential informant going to Pearson’s office to pick up the $100 bill, posing as Frierson’s girlfriend. That interaction also was recorded, and the jury could hear another person in the background asking the informant if she was wearing a wire and if she was a police officer, to which the informant said “no,” before she received the money from Pearson.

In the end, it took  about an hour and a half for the jury to come to the guilty verdict. Retired Third District Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey, who presided over the case, said sentencing will be handled at a later date, and until that time Pearson could remain out of jail on bond. Lackey and the Attorney General’s office were assigned to the case after the local District Attorney’s office and Circuit Court Judges recused themselves from the case.

Sheriff David Allison said he is pleased with the work of his investigators and the Attorney General’s office to secure a conviction.

“We’re pleased with the verdict and glad to see this case is behind us,” Allison said.

Saucier also said he is pleased with the outcome and was confident with his and Edgar’s investigation.

“There has never been a time since all this started that we thought we would not get a guilty verdict on this,” Saucier said.

Alexander also was pleased with the jury’s verdict.

“I think the jury saw the overwhelming evidence and made the proper ruling,” Alexander said.

Pearson declined to comment, but instead referred the Item reporter to Rafferty. The attorney said he would have liked to have been able to present all of the information his defense had set up and believes that if the jury had heard all of it, the outcome would have been different. He did make that argument to the judge and plans to appeal the case. Rafferty instead had to offer that information to the court record out of the jury’s presence for use in an appeal.

“I would be crazy not to,” Rafferty said.

That evidence pertained to allegations that there was a conspiracy by the Sheriff’s Department to cause distress to Pearson and put her out of business.