TUPELO • Phone records show that in the days after Lee County Supervisor Billy Joe Holland’s 2018 drunken driving arrest, Sheriff Jim Johnson spoke with Holland himself and with the local prosecutor who ultimately dismissed the DUI charge.
Johnson and Holland both use county owned phones, and the Daily Journal obtained select records for these phones through a public records request.
The records show that following his arrest on Friday, April 6, Holland called Johnson early the next Monday morning. A few hours later that same morning, Johnson called then-county prosecutor James Moore.
The next month, Moore dismissed the DUI charge against Holland. The day before the dismissal was signed, phone records show Moore called Holland and Johnson.
Moore, who is now a county judge, says he dropped the DUI charge against Holland at the request of Lee County’s sheriff. Johnson denies he made any such request.
In interviews this week, Johnson and Holland both told the Daily Journal they cannot recall what was discussed during the phone calls mentioned above.
After his arrest last year, a state Highway Patrol trooper took Holland to jail, administered a breath test and charged him with DUI. In an interview last month with the Daily Journal, Holland acknowledged he drank several margaritas that night.
After he was charged, jail staff allowed Holland to leave the jail. That means the elected county leader was never booked into custody and was not required to post any bail to secure his release.
The following Monday morning, Holland called Johnson on his cell phone twice in quick succession, beginning at 9:52. Records show Johnson answered both times.
Later that morning, Johnson called county prosecutor James Moore at 11:49 with no answer. A few minutes later, Moore called back and the two men spoke.
During this phone call, Moore says Johnson asked him to dismiss the case against Holland.
“I was contacted by Sheriff Johnson by phone on the Monday morning following Billy Joe’s arrest and advised there was no record of said arrest at the jail and was requested to dismiss the DUI charge,” said Moore last month.
Johnson denies that he made any effort to intervene on behalf of Holland during that phone call or at any other time.
“I have had absolutely no role in the dismissal,” Johnson said this week.
About six weeks after the District 5 supervisor’s arrest, Moore filed a motion on May 18 in Justice Court requesting the dismissal of Holland’s DUI charge. Judge Chuck Hopkins signed the dismissal.
The day before the court order was filed, Moore called Johnson at 5:52 p.m. and then immediately after Moore also called Holland.
The sheriff said he could not remember why he called Moore on the Monday morning following Holland’s arrest and he cannot remember why Moore called him the day before the dismissal.
“It would have been normal for me to contact him one way or another,” the sheriff said.
Johnson also said he did not remember what he and Holland discussed the Monday after Holland’s arrest.
“I do not have any recollection of that call,” Johnson said.
The sheriff suggested that the call with Holland might have involved Board of Supervisors business and incorrectly said Holland was board president in 2018. District 2 Supervisor Mike Smith was board president in 2018.
When asked this week, Holland told the Daily Journal he remembers no contact with the sheriff about his DUI charge in the immediate aftermath of the arrest.
When told about what the phone records show, Holland said he could not remember why he called Johnson two days after his arrest.
“I don’t remember. That’s been over a year ago,” Holland said.
Holland insisted that he never asked the sheriff or the county prosecutor for favorable treatment.
As to Moore’s phone call to him the day before the dismissal of the DUI, Holland said he cannot remember what was discussed.
In speaking about Holland’s DUI, Johnson and Moore have both acknowledged that other people have received the same kind of treatment as did Holland.
“Billy Joe Holland’s picture not being put on there is not the sole and lone picture that has not been put on that website,” Johnson said recently, referring to the booking website.
Moore said that during his lengthy tenure as prosecutor, it was a fairly common practice for law enforcement and other attorneys to ask for a lesser charge, a lower fine or the case to be dismissed.
“I was not at all offended when the sheriff asked,” Moore said. “I was so used to being asked. It’s common. Over my 15 years as prosecutor, I was asked more than 100 times.
“It might be the lady at the cleaners or someone at the store you frequent. It’s not all DUIs, either. It might be a speeding ticket or possession of marijuana in a motor vehicle. None of that stuff is a felony.”
Daily Journal reporter William Moore contributed to this story.