CATEGORY: Union County
HED:Lawmaker to appeal jail sentence
By Errol Castens
NEW ALBANY - State Rep. Randy Mitchell has decided to appeal a 30-day jail sentence Union County Chancery Court has imposed on him in connection with a nearly 20-year-old suit charging he practiced veterinary medicine without a license.
The New Albany Democrat, who formerly operated an animal services business, was found to have practiced veterinary medicine without a license, first in 1979 and again in later years.
The court imposed fines and jail sentences. The jail terms, however, were suspended, dependent on Mitchell's good behavior and refraining from veterinary practice, according to a decree handed down Sept. 24 by Chancellor Timothy Ervin.
Mitchell's six-month jail sentence was reinstated in August 1989 after he was found to have violated the 1979 injunction against practicing veterinary medicine.
He appealed the decision of Chancellor George F. Adams to the Mississippi Supreme Court, moving that the court modify or suspend the sentence.
Just days before Adams retired from the bench in January 1991, he executed an order suspending the jail term he had imposed on Mitchell in 1989.
Neither the Board of Veterinary Medicine nor its counsel was notified of the order, which was not filed until January 3, 1991. The next day Mitchell withdrew his appeal of the August 1989 sentence, since it was no longer in effect.
The Board of Veterinary Medicine soon filed a motion to have the suspension set aside, clearing the way for Mitchell to be required to serve the six-month sentence.
Ervin's decree finds Mitchell in contempt of court for having continued some of the practices he was ordered to halt.
The decree imposes a 30-day jail sentence on Mitchell, with the other five months in the original sentence suspended pending good behavior.
The court concluded that Mitchell held the court's orders in contempt and that only a jail term would remedy the situation.
According to the terms of the latest sentence, Mitchell must serve the sentence before the end of this year, in increments of at least two days.
"This opinion will not affect his legal ability to continue to serve in the Legislature," said Joseph Langston of Booneville, the attorney who is handling Mitchell's latest appeal.
The sentence, however, is automatically stayed throughout the appeal process, so even if the jail term is eventually upheld by the Mississippi Supreme Court, Mitchell probably will not serve the sentence this year.
The appeal is based on Mitchell's belief that the original finding of the court was in error.
"It is Mr. Mitchell's position that he has not committed any intentional act that would justify a jail sentence," Langston said.
Counsel for the Mississippi Board of Veterinary Examiners could not be reached for comment.