Mississippi Man Accused Of Exploiting Sen. Thad Cochran's Ailing Wife

| by Jared Keever

Police arrested a Mississippi man Friday for allegedly sneaking into the nursing home of Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife, taking a photo of her and posting it on his political blog. 

Clayton Thomas Kelly, 28, of Pearl, Miss., is charged with felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Police officials in Madison, Miss., told the Associated Press he is being held on $100,000 bond.

Sen. Cochran’s wife, Rose, 72, has lived at St. Catherine's Village nursing home since 2000. She suffers from progressive dementia and is now bed-ridden.

Cochran is a six-term, Republican senator from Mississippi. He is seeking a seventh term but is facing a primary challenge from Tea Party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel, according to Fox News.

Kelly runs various conservative YouTube channels and blogs. He is a supporter of McDaniel. The photo of Cochran’s wife was used as part of a political “hit piece” that Kelly posted on the Internet. 

The piece was taken down within a few hours of its posting.

McDaniel’s campaign officials say they don’t know Kelly and had nothing to do with the photo or its use on the Internet.

“Absolutely -- I've never even heard his name," Noel Fritsch, communications director for McDaniel, told The Clarion-Ledger.

Scott Brewster, a director in McDaniel’s campaign, said he was aware of the video that contained the photo.

"I do remember when it came out," Brewster said. "I think people made some phone calls (to have it removed). I didn't personally -- nobody personally talked to (Kelly). I don't know if anybody made phone calls about it. I'm not sure. Just, I remember all of a sudden it was gone.”

If the campaign wasn’t involved in Kelly’s blog, representatives from Cochran’s campaign want to know how McDaniel’s campaign manager, state Sen. Melanie Sojourner, knew about Kelly’s arrest before news of it broke.

Jordan Russell, a spokesman of Cochran’s, told the The Clarion-Ledger that Sojourner called Cochran’s headquarters Saturday morning to offer condolences over Kelly’s actions. She said she had been concerned since Friday night, before anyone else knew he had been arrested.

Cochran released a statement Saturday concerning the incident.

"I have been fortunate to have a wonderful family, and like so many families, we are deeply affected by my wife's serious, long-term illness, that we consider to be a very private family matter," he said. "We will continue doing everything we can to protect my wife's safety and security.”

The police are continuing to investigate. The nursing home is also conducting its own internal investigation.

Sources: Associated Press, Fox News, The Clarion-Ledger