No jail time for co-conspirators who pleaded guilty in Hinds County embezzlement, bribery scandal

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 7:03 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Two weeks after a Hinds County election commissioner’s guilty plea removed her from office, two more co-conspirators learned their fate from a circuit judge.

Special Judge Jess Dickinson sentenced Cedric Cornelius and Sudie Jones-Teague to twenty years in custody, with fifteen years suspended.

Cornelius must spend five years in the state’s intensive supervision program.

Jones-Teague only has to be in the program for one year, with the remaining four under supervised probation.

Dickinson decided to impose his own sentence for Cornelius because of confusion from the district attorney’s office.

Cornelius’ original plea agreement would have had him in the state’s intensive supervision program -- essentially house arrest - for five years and probation for another five.

Cornelius told the judge he didn’t know that’s what the plea agreement said, leading the judge to remove the probation entirely.

After more than an hour of debate on the subject, Jones-Teague addressed the court.

Assistant District Attorney Gwen Agho reminded the judge of her prior felony convictions for money laundering and possession of a controlled substance.

“I have not done anything wrong in the last 35 years, I worked really hard to put myself in a better position. And once I pled guilty, the news media took this and put on, you know, the news that I was cooperating like I was a snitch,” Jones-Teague said. “My business got burned down. And now I’m working out of a food trailer. And now that has been just way too much.”

Actually, the plea agreements made public by the DA’s office said both Jones-Teague and Cornelius would cooperate with future cases, including former Hinds County Election Commissioner Toni Johnson’s trial before she ended up pleading guilty.

The three were embroiled in a bribery, embezzlement, and conspiracy scandal first uncovered by 3 On Your Side.

Our digging showed Cornelius’ motion picture company getting tens of thousands in taxpayer dollars for services he never performed.

Jones-Teague’s beauty supply shop also got more than $120,000 for alleged cleaning services, too.

State Auditor Shad White maintains that money, which came from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life, became taxpayer dollars the minute it was transferred into the county’s bank account.

Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens said more arrests are possible.

“There are other avenues that we’re looking at and things that we became aware of during the investigations. So I can’t say it’s over at this point in time, but we’re sure the active cases will be resolved in the future,” Owens said.

Of the five co-conspirators facing charges, only three thus far have taken plea deals, all with no jail time.

Owens said the indictments against Undare Kidd and his wife Trafonda are still part of an active investigation and have yet to be resolved at this point.

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