Morgan Shands pleads guilty and goes to prison
Prominent political operative Morgan Shands and his sister were indicted for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in March of 2014. His trial on the embezzlement charges from a bingo hall operated by an American Legion post in the Mississippi Delta was originally scheduled for early December 2014. After more than two and one-half years, Shands pled guilty to stealing $375,00, was sentenced to five years in prison and was immediately take into custody The original indictment charged Shands with embezzling almost $600,000. According to judicial guidelines, he might just serve half of the sentence. At a time when many feel politics is too partisan and civility is missing from political life, Shands had a strong non-partisan resume. At one time he was executive director of the Mississippi Democratic Party and worked for Democrat incumbent attorney general Jim Hood and his Democrat predecessor, Mike Moore. In recent years, Shands had impressive Republican credentials. He worked for U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and State Auditor Stacey Pickering. Even earlier, in 2007, he was a key figure in the campaign of current Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. Shands’ most recent prominent political role was as campaign manager for then state Sen. Billy Hewes, now mayor of Gulfport, when Hewes made a strong Republican primary race for lieutenant governor against Tate Reeves in 2011. Even following his indictment in 2014, Shands had a minor role in Sen. Thad Cochran’s re-election campaign when Cochran was challenged in the GOP primary by state Sen. Chris McDaniel. At one time, it was widely rumored Shands was being encouraged to run for attorney general. How sad someone who was considered a very viable candidate to be the top law enforcement officer in the state is now in prison.
Public corruption is still far too common in Mississippi
As a side note, when it seemed the trial of Shands was stalled and not moving forward, I wrote several update posts after talking with the DA’s office and county officials in Bolivar County. A couple of people even indicated I was picking on Shands by publicly updating the status of his case. It was very legitimate news when one of the state’s most prominent political operatives embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars. Public corruption is still far too common in Mississippi.
In March 2014, well-known political operative Morgan Shands and his sister, Rachel Shands Buser, were indicted by a grand jury in Bolivar County on felony charges of embezzling more than $600,000 from an American Legion post in the Mississippi Delta. Shands, a former executive director of the Mississippi Democratic Party, has worked for current Attorney General Jim Hood and Hood’s predecessor Mike Moore. In more recent times, before his indictment, Shands had numerous political ties to prominent Republicans. He was on the staff of U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and State Auditor Stacey Pickering. Four years ago, Shands was the state campaign manager for current Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes when Hewes ran unsuccessfully against Tate Reeves for lieutenant governor. In 2007, Shands worked in the campaign of Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. Now, almost 19 months since Shands and his sister were indicted, the trial has not started. The trail was originally schedule to start on Dec. 8, 2014. The docket page of the Bolivar County Circuit Clerk shows no action since legal motions were made in July 2014. A few days ago, I spoke with the assistant district attorney who is handling the Shands case. Leslie Flint told me that while the Shands case is still on the docket, so are a lot of other cases. She added that it is a “big docket” and that murder cases and other violent crimes take precedent on the docket. Flint cautioned me that nothing should be read into the fact that the Shands case has not gone to trial since Shands and his sister were indicted in March 2014.
After University of Missouri, campus copycats in full swing
After the incidents at the University of Missouri where the president and chancellor resigned, inmates wanting to run the asylum are in full action at campuses throughout the nation. Two in particular are very interesting. As was the case at Mizzou, a University of Kansas student has started a hunger strike – not to force any school administrators to step down, but to force the resignation of three members of the student leadership at Kansas. The student on the hunger strike and other protestors want the student leaders to step down because they are accused of “not standing in solidarity with their black peers.” The Kansas protest is not receiving the vast publicity as the one at Mizzou because the student
The criminal trial of well-known politico Morgan Shands and his sister has been continued until the next criminal court term in Bolivar County. According to the court administrator for the county, that court term runs from May 4 until June 12. The trail was originally scheduled to start in Cleveland, MS on December 8. Shands and his sister, Rachel Shands Buser, were indicted in March 2014 on felony charges of embezzlement and conspiracy. The two were accused of embezzling more than $600,000 from an American Legion Post in the Mississippi Delta. When the trial was scheduled to start in early December court officials said it could be delayed because of a murder trial and other criminal cases on the docket. A plea agreement could also be reached before the trial is scheduled next May. The case was originally to be heard by Judge Albert Smith but was moved to the court of Judge Charles Webster. Shands was connected to many prominent elected officials and politicians in the state, both Republican and Democrat.
The criminal trial of political operative Morgan Shands is scheduled to start next Monday, Dec. 8, in Cleveland, MS in the courtroom of Bolivar County Circuit Judge Charles Webster. Last March, Shands and his sister, Rachel Shands Buser, were indicted by a grand jury on felony charges of embezzling more than $600,000 from American Legion Post 1776 in the Delta. Shands is a well known politico who once served a executive director of the Mississippi Democrat Party and worked for both current Attorney General Jim Hood and former AG Mike Moore. Court documents indicate that Lee Martin of Moore’s law firm in the Jackson suburb of Flowood is Shands’ defense attorney.
A Bonehead Decision
Someone in the Thad Cochran campaign made a bonehead decision for the June 24 Republican runoff. Last March a grand jury in Bolivar County indicted Morgan Shands on felony charges of embezzling more than $600,000 from an American Legion post in the Delta. Federal Election Commission reports show that in June the Cochran campaign paid Shands, as well as two of his sons, for door-to-door GOTV (Get Out The Vote) efforts.
Shands is a well-known politico in the state. He was a former executive director of the Mississippi Democrat Party and worked for Attorney General Jim Hood and former AG Mike Moore. Shands was on the staff of Sen. Roger Wicker and also worked for State Auditor Stacey Pickering. In 2011 he was campaign manager for current Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes when Hewes, then a state senator, ran for lieutenant governor against Tate Reeves. Four years earlier Shands worked in the campaign of Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. There was even talk at one time that Shands might himself be a candidate for statewide office.