In 2014, Bryan Bailey, the sheriff of Rankin County, Miss., made a series of routine requests to the local district attorney’s office. He asked for grand jury subpoenas to force the phone company to turn over records of calls and text messages for what he called a “confidential internal investigation.” Bailey wrote a note on a subpoena form and gave it to a paralegal in the district attorney’s office. “Please keep this confidential between you and I,” the note read. “Possible wrongdoing by school district employee.” His requests had nothing to do with alleged wrongdoing or any criminal investigation, according to a report obtained by The New York Times and the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting at Mississippi Today. Instead, Bailey tapped into the power of a grand jury at least eight times over a year to spy on his married girlfriend and the school employee with whom she was also “unfaithful,” the documents show.
The investigative report, compiled in 2016 by the district attorney at the time, Michael Guest, laid out evidence that Bailey had duped the prosecutor’s office and potentially violated state law on fraud. Guest, now a U.S. congressman and chairman of the House Committee on Ethics, decided he could not pursue the case further because of conflicts of interest, including his yearslong friendship with the sheriff. He told two local judges what he had discovered and passed his investigation on to the state attorney general. Former staff members in the attorney general’s office said no one questioned the sheriff or conducted a full investigation. Jim Hood, the attorney general at the time, asked a senior attorney to look into the matter but did not pursue criminal charges. Neither his office nor Guest informed the state agency that oversees law enforcement certifications, despite Guest's being a voting member of the board. If informed the agency could have reviewed the allegations and possibly revoked Bailey’s certification.