Davis pleads guilty in fraud case

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 17, 1999

A former political candidate charged with election fraud against Natchez native Heath Hall pleaded guilty Tuesday.

Republican Phillip R. Davis of Magee will be sentenced Oct. 18 on charges he circulated phony election solicitations that damaged Hall and another opponent, Art Rhodes.

Davis could receive up to one year in jail and up to a $100,000 fine for the misdemeanor charge.

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&uot;Election fraud dilutes the worth of votes honestly cast,&uot; wrote U.S. Attorney Brad Pigott. &uot;It also corrupts the essence of our representative form of government.&uot;

Davis, whose offenses stem from the 1998 4th Congressional District primary, was also cited for concealing that he was the author of the mailings.

Instead he attributed the mailings, which prosecutors said he illegally paid for out of his campaign, either to his opponents or those endorsing them.

”He’s accepting responsibility for what he did,” Davis’ attorney, Tom Royals, said as he and Davis left the courthouse.

Hall said the mailings may have hurt his chances in the election. &uot;I do think it had a significant effect on the campaign,&uot;&160;he said.

Hall said he was saddened by the events but was not angry at Davis for damaging his campaign.

&uot;I really don’t have any room in my heart for hatred or bitterness, but only for forgiveness,&uot; Hall said. &uot;I’ve spoken with (Davis). I’m saddened for him and I’m saddened for his family.&uot;

Davis managed to defeat both Hall and Rhodes in the primary but then lost to another Republican candidate, Delbert Hosemann, in a run-off primary. Hosemann eventually lost to Ronnie Shows in the November general election.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Tucker said Davis directed campaign workers in May 1998 to print campaign materials about Rhodes and Hall. He spent $2,000 on the materials that did not denote the literature was paid for by Davis or his political committee, a federal requirement.

In one of the mailings said to be from Hall, Davis wrote that Hall promised to move into the 4th congressional district if elected. Although Hall lives just outside the district line he said the voters were aware of that.

&uot;I was very clear about that when I announced my candidacy,&uot; said Hall, who grew up in Natchez and still owns part of a home in town.

Another mailing from Davis was said to be an ACLU endorsement for Rhodes because Rhodes was opposed to school prayer.

Hall said he may still run for office again but hopes this event will send a message to other candidates. &uot;People don’t like sleazy campaign tactics,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;There is no room in the political process for it.&uot;

Hall said he understands that the political process often leads good people to do unusual things.

&uot;(Davis) is a good person,&uot; Hall said. &uot;He’s not the type of person that would normally do that.&uot;

The Associated Press contributed to this report.