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County official pleads not guilty to pepper-spraying woman

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A central Mississippi county official denies that he violated a woman’s civil rights.

Simpson County Chancery Clerk Tommy Joe Harvey pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday to an indictment on one count of depriving someone of their civil rights.

Harvey is accused of pepper spraying a handcuffed woman in April 2017 while acting in his official duties. The circumstances of the alleged act are unclear. Harvey’s defense lawyers are declining comment.

The 70-year-old Harvey was arrested Wednesday night and jailed in Madison County. He was released on $20,000 bail.

Harvey could face up to 10 years in prison.

He will continue to serve as Simpson County chancery clerk while under indictment. Harvey has held the office, traditionally one of the most powerful in a Mississippi county’s government, since 2004.