Cotton, staff in district attorney’s office working overtime to get up to speed

Published 3:16 pm Monday, February 5, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Tim Cotton and his staff have been working non-stop since the beginning of the year to whip into shape the Sixth Circuit District Attorney’s office, to which he was elected on Nov. 6, 2023.

In just over four weeks, Cotton and company have recreated case files, reviewed pending prosecutions and otherwise worked to get up to speed.

“We have met with nearly every victim (on pending cases), some that have never been talked to by this office before,” Cotton said.

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He and his staff also have met with law enforcement officers involved in pending cases in order to establish a clear channel of communication. Cotton plans to reinstate routine meetings with area investigators.

Former Municipal Court Judge Lisa Jordan Dale, who resigned to go to work with Cotton as an assistant district attorney, has led grand juries in Amite and Franklin County already this year, he said.

And last Wednesday, the DA’s office was in its third day presenting cases to an Adams County Grand Jury — 165 cases in fact.

Also on Wednesday, Cotton was in Sixth District Circuit Court Judge Debra Blackwell’s courtroom, working through a litany of cases he inherited. He was joined by Assistant District Attorney Will Alford of Franklin County, who will have an office in the Franklin County courthouse and work from it a couple of days each week.

“Right now, he’s here with me in Adams County while we get established,” Cotton said.

For a number of defendants, Cotton said he plans to present cases to a grand jury again, but this time pursuing the defendants as habitual offenders.

Blackwell said those convicted as habitual offenders must serve their sentences day for day, meaning they are not eligible for sentence reductions for good behavior and the like.

Cotton inherited several cases in which the victims are not cooperating with prosecutors. That’s the case for defendant Antonio Smith, whose trial was set for Feb. 6.

“This is a 2017 matter, judge,” Cotton said. “The victim has moved to Texas and we have talked at least three times and they have made it clear they have no intent to come back for this case.”

Smith had been charged with burglary of a dwelling and was being held on $20,000 bond.

Blackwell released Smith pursuant to the terms of his bond.

Cotton’s office could re-indict Smith should circumstances change.

A similar situation existed for Jonathan Douglas Newman, who was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and had a bond of $40,000. Cotton said he plans to seek a new indictment against Newman.