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Former clerk gets probation for using pepper spray on woman

June 17, 2022 GMT

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A former Mississippi chancery clerk has been fined $5,000 and put on two years’ probation for depriving a woman of civil rights by using pepper spray on her after she left court during a child custody hearing.

Federal officials on Friday announced the sentence of Tommy Joe Harvey, 74, who stepped down as Simpson County chancery clerk at the end of May.

Court records show Harvey was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge David C. Bramlette III.

Harvey pleaded guilty on Feb. 23 to deprivation of civil rights under color of law, according to the news release from U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca and Jermicha Fomby, special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Jackson.

Harvey had been Simpson County chancery clerk since 2004 and was most recently reelected in 2019.

The news release said that according to court documents, a woman became upset during a child custody hearing on April 28, 2017. She left but was ordered to return to the courtroom.

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Harvey found the woman in a vehicle across the street from the courthouse, and he told one of his employees to bring a can of pepper spray from his office, the release said. Harvey told the woman to compose herself, and he then used the pepper spray on her as she tried to drive away.

After two sheriff’s deputies handcuffed the woman, Harvey used the pepper spray on her several more times as she was being taken back to the courtroom, the release said.