TUPELO • A former Lee County deputy, who says an alleged threat against the current sheriff was free speech, is set to go to trial next month for turning in false time sheets in 2017.

Mike Mayhew, 45, of Plantersville, is charged with three counts of submitting false documents. According to paperwork filed last week in Lee County, the trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 18 and be heard by Senior Circuit Court Judge Paul Funderburk

Mayhew worked for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office for about a decade. He is accused of submitting false time sheets in February, March and April of 2017, according to court documents reviewed by the Daily Journal. The exact amount of the fraud is not listed, but Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson has said the total was several thousand dollars.

“We were alerted to a potential problem, we started monitoring the situation and noticed some irregular activities,” Johnson said in a previous interview. “We investigated him for about a year.

“Once we realized that a crime had occurred, we turned over all the documentation we had compiled to the state Attorney General’s Office.”

Assistant Attorney General Stanley Alexander presented the case to the grand jury and secured an indictment in March 2018. Mayhew surrendered himself on those charges on April 4, 2018. He spent about 15 minutes at the jail before being released on bond.

This summer, Mayhew was arrested again, charged with threatening his former boss in March when he told another former deputy that the sheriff had “an a • {/strong}whipping coming.”

Following a late June indictment, Mayhew was arrested in mid-July and charged with retaliation against a public servant, a Class 2 felony that carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and/or up to a $3,000 fine.

Mayhew now argues that the statement made in a public space is protected by the First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause. Through his attorney Victor Fleitas, Mayhew has asked the court quash the indictment.

The motion, filed in early August in Lee County Circuit Court, said the retaliation against a public servant charge is too vague and “conceivably criminalizes a whole host of constitutionally protected speech not amounting to true threats.” The motion further argues that the state law is unconstitutional when applied to this case because his comments “did not constitute a true threat as a matter of law.”

The motion asks the court to quash or set aside the indictment. The case file does not have a judge of record listed. None of the First Circuit Court judges have taken up the motion and made a ruling.

william.moore@journalinc.com

Twitter:@WilliamMoore_DJ

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