PONTOTOC – An Oxford man notoriously pardoned by Gov. Haley Barbour as he left office in 2012 pleaded guilty today to the DUI-death of an Okolona woman.
Judge James L. Roberts Jr. then sentenced him to 15 years, seven suspended, and ordered him to pay Smith’s funeral costs. Bostick’s attorney is Anthony Farese of Ashland.
The former IRS agent was indicted May 10, 2012, on three counts of driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident and DUI-death.
Eighteen-year-old Charity Smith of Okolona was killed in the Oct. 7, 2011, accident when Bostick’s vehicle collided with hers as she drove on U.S. Highway 278 in Pontotoc County. Her sister was seriously injured.
At the time, Bostick was serving a one-year sentence on house arrest for a 2010 DUI-3rd offense. He also was participating in the local drug court program, for which completion would mean suspension of four more years on his sentence.
The Smith accident put him back in jail for violating a condition of that house arrest sentence.
Three months later, Bostick was one of more than 200 people that Barbour pardoned, or gave clemency or other leniency for prior misdeeds.
Barbour’s pardon, which erased Bostick’s third DUI conviction, caused a national media furor because of Barbour’s high visibility as a top strategist with the national Republican Party who had previously considered but decided against a 2012 presidential run.
Barbour aides said they didn’t know about Bostick’s probation violation. But a few months later, CNN reported that it obtained emails that showed Barbour’s office was aware of Bostick’s October 2011 DUI arrest months before the pardon.
Bostick has been free on $50,000 bond since his May 11 arraignment.
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(Below is a running account from the Pontotoc County courtroom. Please excuse the typos and glitches likely as I type rapidly. This courtroom also is infamous for its poor acoustics, so bear with me.)
As we wait for plea-day action in circuit court, I notice that behind the judge’s bench, painted in foot-tall letters between the state seal and some other kind of heraldry is the phrase, “To Thine Own Self Be True.” It is a line spoken by Polonius, a character in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” He is King Claudius’ chief counsellor, and the father of Ophelia and Laertes. Polonius connives with Claudius to spy on Hamlet. Hamlet unknowingly kills Polonius, provoking Ophelia’s fit of madness and death and the climax of the play: a duel between Laertes and Hamlet.
9:16 – District Attorney Trent Kelly enters the courtroom. Asst DA Paul Gault usually handles Pontotoc County prosecutions, although Kelly often participates in high-profile cases.
Kelly just helped the court reporter take transcription equipment out of the courtroom, probably the judge’s chambers. (I’m curious to know why they need a record of chambers’ conversation.)
9:23 – Kelly, court reporter back in courtroom. Farese and Bostick enter too. (Chambers action could very well have related to them.) Farese, Bostick take their seats at the defense table. Looks like they are first up today.
9:26 – Judge enters courtroom. Opens court day for plea and revocation day.
First matter – to take a plea.
Farese and Bostick step to the podium.
Judge calls the case – MS versus Harry Russ Bostick.
Indicates a desire to plead guilty to Count 3, charging DUI-death. State recommends moving Counts 1-2 to the file. (Judge asks Bostick standard questions before accepting his plea.)
(Bostick tells court about his previous convictions and pardon. Says he’s undergone chemical dependency treatment. He’s answering in a strong voice to all Roberts’ questions.)
Judge – Count 3 says you … operated vehicle under influence of intoxicating liquor … negligently cause death of Charity Smith. Do you understand that? (Yes.) Did you commit that crime? (Yes sir)
Kelly – max is 25 year, min is 5 years. Max fine $10,000. (Judge – any of that mandatory?) Kelly says 5 years, none on fine.
Judge – REcommendation for Bostick? Kelly says – 15 years, 7 suspended, 8 years to serve, 5 years post-release supervision, $1,000 fine, court costs and restitution for Smith’s funeral expenses. (Jduge – how much?) Kelly looks to family in audience says he willget him information.
Did you hear that and understand it? (Yes sir)
Plead? (Guilty, your honor) Asks Kelly if other issues.
Kelly – 2 of victim’s family asks to address the court. Should I also state to the court what we would have proved if we went to trial? (Judge – proceed) State would show that on Oct. 7, 2011 in Pontotoc County, Bostick operated vehicle Ford F150 Truck … Smith in Buick LeSabre … 7:22 p.m. collision. Sister was passenger in car. Front of his truck his driver side of car, Charity Smith died. Blood analysis of Bostick DUI when it happened 1.6% BAC which is more than 0.18%. He was going 73 mph, limit was 55.
9:47 – Kelly accompanies woman before judge. Judge asks her to speak up. She says she’s a Smith. (She’s reading statement… hard to hear what she’s saying because she’s weeping. She’s reading something Charity wrote. Says she was writing a book… maybe one day on the NYT Best Seller’s List. Mother says it was a day she will never forget. No way to tell you how much I love her. Want her to be home. Tell me she loves me. Never hold her in my arms again. Never feel her arms around my neck. Never see her grow up. Charity will never have her baby. Always called me Mama, she always went with me. She loved family. 9:52)
Judge – Farese, anything? (No sir) Kelly says no one else.
Judge – About restitution? Kelly says give us a week to get that figure for the file. Judge agreed.
Asks Farese anything to say or Bostick?
BOSTICK – Want to apologize to the family (deep sighs) actions that occurred 2011, I accept full responsibility… sincerely sorry for causing the death of Charity Smith. I am a recovering alcoholic. Thought I was on the road to recovery until this occurred. Never my intent to harm Charity or anyone else. I will forever be sorry. I pray for the Smith family every day since Oct. 7, 2011 and will continue to do so. Don’t know if you will be able to find in your hearts… asking for your Christian forgiveness.
FARESE – Absolute tragedy for both families. Smith family and Bostick family. Hard to fathom how someone can serve 27 1/2 years as IRS investigator and find himself here today. Ironically, he lost a son a theology student at Arkansas. His son stayed with his mother, and there was a house fire. Mother and husband escape. Son burned up. That began his spiral, that loss has haunted him. He turned to alcohol, fought it. Thought he had it conquered, obviously didn’t. Extenuating circumstances. Think it’s a fair plea offer. Believe his apology is sincere. Always maintained that position. I ask court to accept state’s recommendation.
JUDGE – Factual basis for his guilty plea. Accepted. Will accept state’e recommendation for sentence. After more than 42 years in courtroom … I have learned and believe … that no matter what my personal opinion might be about cases … these lawyers negotiate in good faith. They know more about circumstances and case than the court does. As a result I generally accept recommendaitons made. I understand better than I wish to personally some of the facts of this case. I buried a child 40 years ago and I understand fully well your situation and… the loss of a child in a tragic circumstances… extremely difficult.
Appears to me … could pick this apart… a reasonable solution to a tragic event. Accept state’s recommendation as to sentence: 15 years in MDOC custody, 7 suspended, leaving 8 years to serve, 5 years post-release supervision, fined $1,000, $100 MCVF, costs of court and restitution for Smith’s funeral. 30 days to provide.
Neither Bostick, Farese, Kelly have questions. Retires Counts 1-2 to the file. 10:02
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• Read more in Saturday’s Daily Journal and the Wednesday, March 27, Chickasaw Journal.