JACKSON, Miss. – A former Mississippi mayor and prison warden was sentenced Tuesday to seven months behind bars for telling an inmate to lie to investigators about sex they had in a hotel room in 2009.
Grady Sims, who served as the mayor of Walnut Grove in central Mississippi for 31 years, told the judge that he lost his job as mayor, his personal vending business and "suffered shame and disgrace."
Sims was first elected mayor in 1981 and served in a part-time capacity for the town of about 1,900. In October 2009, he became warden of the Walnut Grove Transition Center, a privately-run prison designed as a "re-entry" facility where inmates are allowed to get jobs in the private sector.
Sims drove the inmate to a hotel to have sex in November 2009. In March 2010, he was secretly recorded in telephone conversations telling her "to lie to investigators."
In October, an indictment accused Sims of sexually assaulting the prisoner while acting in his official capacity. In a plea deal in February, the assault charge was dismissed and Sims pleaded guilty to witness intimidation. He was forced to resign as mayor and was barred from seeking office again.
Sims, a 61-year-old gray-haired man with a white mustache, wore a light-brown suit jacket and yellow shirt opened at the collar, as he stood before the judge. He accepted responsibility and apologized to his wife and family, who were in the courtroom.
"I am ashamed and sorrowful to be here ... I have been a Christian for many years and I fell away from God," Sims said. "I came back to God."
Judge David Bramlette sentenced Sims to six months of house arrest and two years of probation after the prison sentence.
Before sentencing, Sims' lawyer, Chris Collins, asked the judge for mercy, saying there are times in life when "it just takes a moment of being selfish or self-gratifying to lose everything. He's lost a lot already."
Bramlette told Sims it's a serious matter to lie to investigators.
"The truth is always the best resolution, no matter how bitter the truth may be," the judge said.
The judge also said he had received an unusually high number of letters in support of Sims, including from a military special operations officer, a bank president and from Sims' wife. The most surprising letter, Bramlette said, was one of praise from Sims' father-in-law.
Bramlette noted that Sims had never been convicted of a crime before and residents thought enough of him to re-elect him numerous times.
"It's my opinion that this man, Mr. Sims, is not going to commit another crime. ... Sometimes good men and good people do bad things," Bramlette said.
The judge ordered Sims to report to prison by June 11.
Sims had no comment as he walked out of court with several relatives and friends.