JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Relatives of a Mississippi man who killed himself are suing a mayor, police officers and a law firm, saying they are part of a political network that pushed him to suicide during a bitterly-fought U.S. Senate race.
The widow and sons of Mark Mayfield say in a federal suit filed Tuesday that his life was ruined in 2014 when he was charged with conspiracy to exploit a vulnerable adult.
Mayfield, an attorney with his own firm, was prominent in the Mississippi tea party movement and supported state lawmaker Chris McDaniel, who lost to Sen. Thad Cochran in a 2014 Republican primary. The primary split voters between tea party factions backing McDaniel and establishment Republicans backing Cochran, who is now chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The felony charge against Mayfield was tied to the unauthorized online publication of a photo of Cochran's wife, Rose, who was living in a nursing home with dementia. Mayfield died before it could be prosecuted.
A blogger pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and spent several months in jail. The photo was an effort to draw attention to allegations that Thad Cochran was having an affair while his wife was incapacitated.
Mayfield's mother had lived in the same nursing home as Rose Cochran, and the lawsuit says Mayfield showed another McDaniel supporter the location of Rose Cochran's room.
"Mark Mayfield's 'crime' was not a crime at all," said the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages of at least $75,000.
The suit said the Butler Snow law firm and others benefited financially from Thad Cochran's position of power.
Rose Cochran died in December 2014, and the senator married a longtime aide in May 2015.
The Butler Snow law firm said in a statement Wednesday that it will "vigorously defend" the lawsuit, saying it is without basis.
"The Mayfield family suffered a deep and painful loss, and we are saddened for them," the Butler Snow statement said.
Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler told The Associated Press she can't comment on the lawsuit without having discussed it with an attorney.
"It certainly saddens me and breaks all of our hearts about Mark Mayfield's loss of his life," she said. "He was a good man and I considered him a friend."
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