No criminal charges will be filed against three supporters of Mississippi Senate candidate Chris McDaniel, including one top aide, who were trapped inside a locked courthouse that housed primary ballots at 2 a.m. on election night.
“Based on our findings and subsequent conclusion, there is no reason to believe that the three individuals engaged in any criminal activity nor do we believe any laws were broken,” a statement by the Hinds County Sheriff’s office read on Thursday.
According to the sheriff’s office, the three McDaniel supporters gained access to the courthouse through an employees-only side door that was not meant to be open. Once it closed behind them, they found themselves trapped and searched the building in hopes of finding an employee who could help them leave. They never had access to any ballot boxes, which were in a secure locked area, the sheriff’s office said.
Othor Cain, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, had jousted with McDaniel’s campaign over the incident since Wednesday. Cain specifically disputed the McDaniel campaign’s official explanation that they had been let in the building by “uniformed personnel,” which he said was a “fabrication” given the lack of any officers on duty at the time.
The sheriff’s office, which announced an end to the investigation, reiterated that their findings contradicted the McDaniel campaign’s characterization of events even as it exonerated them from any criminal wrongdoing.
“Contrary to earlier reports, no uniformed personnel and more specifically, no employee of the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office assisted these individuals with gaining access to the courthouse,” the statement read.
The McDaniel campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the investigation’s conclusion.
McDaniel and incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran will face off in a run-off election on June 24 for the GOP Senate nomination in Mississippi.