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Mississippi civil rights lawyer arrested recording traffic stop, attorney says

The president of a civil rights organization, who was arrested, filed a federal lawsuit last year against the Lexington Police Department on behalf of a group of city residents.
Jill Collen Jefferson, president of JULIAN, a civil rights and international human rights law firm, in Lexington, Miss., during a civil rights tour on June 1, 2023.
Jill Collen Jefferson in Lexington, Miss., during a civil rights tour on June 1.Rogelio V. Solis / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Mississippi civil rights lawyer was arrested Saturday after recording a traffic stop conducted by officers from a police department she is suing in federal court, her attorney says.

Jill Collen Jefferson is the president of JULIAN, the civil rights organization that filed a federal lawsuit last year against the Lexington Police Department on behalf of a group of city residents. Michael Carr, Jefferson’s attorney, told The Associated Press she was arrested late Saturday evening after she recorded officers after they pulled someone over.

The Lexington Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment in voicemails and phone calls.

Jefferson was arrested nine days after Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division traveled to Lexington to meet with community members about allegations of police brutality in the small town.

Jefferson’s lawsuit claims police have subjected Lexington residents to false arrests, excessive force and intimidation.

“As an advocate for her clients, Jill Jefferson believes that this pattern and practice has happened to citizens in Lexington,” Carr said. “Through this experience, she is showing the state, the area and possibly the nation the corrupt practices of this city.”

Carr said Jefferson complied with a request to produce identification and questioned why the officers had approached her as she recorded on a public street. She was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors: failure to comply, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Jefferson was booked in the Holmes County Jail, where she remains pending a court hearing, which hadn’t been scheduled as of Sunday morning.

Carr said Police Chief Charles Henderson eventually agreed to release her without posting bond. But Jefferson refuses to pay a $35 processing fee levied by the jail for her release because she believes her arrest was unlawful.