June 15, 2024

On Wednesday morning, the FBI raided businesses owned by Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens II as well as his office.

“This morning, FBI agents came to our offices,” he said in a statement. “We are fully cooperating with their efforts.”

FBI agents raided his Downtown Cigar Company and other businesses, just blocks from the Hinds County Courthouse, where Owens serves as prosecutor.

“The FBI is executing federal search warrants at multiple locations,” FBI spokeswoman Marshay Lawson said in a statement. “The affidavit in support of the search warrants has been sealed by the court, and so I am prohibited from commenting further. There is no threat to public safety.”

Jody Owens Credit: Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Owens, who was first elected as district attorney in 2019, did not return calls, but said in a statement on Facebook that his office continues to “work on behalf of the citizens of Hinds County. That has been and will continue to be our primary focus.”

Owens, a native of Terry, previously served as chief policy counsel and managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi office. He attended Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., and worked for the late U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran as a legal intern for the Senate Appropriations Committee. Owens is a lieutenant intelligence officer in the Navy Reserves.

Sources close to a federal investigation say the FBI has been examining the city of Jackson’s garbage contract, though it’s not known if there is any connection to the raids related to Owens. Agents have questioned City Council members about that contract.

In recent years, the Jackson City Council and Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba have battled over garbage contracts, leading to multiple emergency contracts with Waste Management and Richard’s Disposal.

After City Council members rejected the mayor’s choice of Richard’s Disposal, Richard’s stopped collecting garbage.

That led to trash piling up on the streets of Jackson for 18 days in April 2023. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality later levied a fine of up to $900,000 against the city for failing to pick up trash.

In March, following a new request for proposals, Richard’s Disposal was awarded a $64 million contract over six years. The council voted 4-3 after two hours of discussion with the three no votes coming from Ward 1’s Ashby Foote, Ward 3’s Kenneth Stokes and Ward 5’s Vernon Hartley. Council President Aaron Banks, who had opposed awarding Richard’s the contract last year, sided with the majority.

Update 5/22/24: This story has been updated to include new developements.

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