A video and older audio clips shared to Facebook in the past week regarding Sheriff Cecil Cantrell set off a barrage of commentary from the public and him, in turn, blaming the timing of the postings on politics.
In the video, a work center inmate, who is no longer being housed there, is assembling a “Re-elect Cantrell Sheriff” campaign sign and in the audio clips, Cantrell thanks employees who supported him and threatens those who didn’t.
Cantrell denied any involvement in directing the former inmate to assemble signs and said he didn’t realize anything about the incident until last Tuesday night, when it was posted to Facebook. He acknowledged the audio, however, and said it was from four or five years ago.
“This is nothing but dirty, rotten politics. This is the dirtiest campaign I’ve ever been involved in. I had no clue it happened, if you want to put the truth out there,” Cantrell said last week of the video clip.
He reiterated part of the same message Monday morning in response to the audio.
“I was county judge for 24 years and I’ve served almost eight years as your sheriff. You know what kind of job I’ve done. This is nothing more than dirty, rotten politics,” he said, adding during his time as sheriff, his department has made numerous drug busts and helped decrease the county’s crime rate.
The video clip was posted to Facebook by Bryant Hargroue of Amory.
“People need to know what’s going on,” said his wife Brandi, who added she couldn’t reveal the origin of the inmate video. “A lot of stuff going on behind closed doors isn’t right. We want people to be honest with the people.”
Cantrell said the video was taken during the beginning of April and he wouldn’t elaborate on who filmed the video either. He said he is investigating the incident.
In a separate video posted to Facebook, Mississippi State Auditor Shad White said during a campaign stop in Amory he was aware of the situation. Kelley Ryan, a spokesperson for the state auditor’s office, could neither confirm nor deny if there is an investigation.
Mississippi Codes 47-5-401 through 47-5-421 address work center inmates, who are restricted to work orders for the county, cities and certain nonprofit organizations. Schools may also use inmate labor.
Work center inmates are non-violent offenders through the Mississippi Department of Corrections housed at the county’s facility.
In researching the legality of an inmate assembling campaign signs, the Mississippi Ethics Commission and Secretary of State offices had no comments regarding such an instance. There was no return calls from the Attorney General’s office or the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
In the two-minute, six-second audio clip, posted online Sunday night, Cantrell appears to address employees who were against him.
“You traitors who are sitting in here, please find you a job,” Cantrell said in the clip. “Get out of here because you’re a cancer. Please move on. Please turn in your notice as soon as you can and find you a job. Move. Get out of here. You keep turning the Lord away, He’ll leave you. Well, I’ve left you, brother.”
The audio continues to state Cantrell saying he’ll “fight with you or I’ll fight against you.”
“I’ll throw down any time you’re ready. You may kick my tail, but I’ll get my licks in. You can believe it or not. And I’ll catch you walking through one of these doors down here and I’ll put a 2x4 upside your head ‘cause I’ll blindside you. I don’t fight fair ‘cause I’ve been doing it ever since I grew up as a little bitty boy,” he said as the clip ended.
Cantrell is running on the Democrat ticket and is seeking his third term as sheriff through the Aug. 6 primary.