Attorney Donald Briskman published a press release today defending Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan 12 days after video was leaked purporting to show McMillan “slapping” former City Magistrate Lyndsey Cooper last October.
Weeks after the alleged incident, McMcMillan was charged with one count of second degree harassment — a misdemeanor — and arrested by the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office. Shortly afterward, he issued a statement saying he was innocent of the charge and “I look forward to having my day in court where all the evidence will come forth, and the truth will be borne out … I am satisfied that, after a full and fair hearing, the allegations against me will be disproved, and I will be exonerated.”
Retired Circuit Court Judge James Reid, who was appointed to the case, has yet to rule on evidentiary motions filed earlier this year. McMillan has maintained his silence about the case even as he announced a re-election campaign last month. Then, a few weeks later, leaked videotape of the alleged incident was posted online.
“Mayor McMillan has asserted his innocence and pleaded not guilty to the charges made by Lyndsey Cooper,” Briskman reiterated today. “The Assistant District Attorney requested that the video not be released prior to trial in an effort to be fair to all parties and so the criminal case would not be prejudiced. While some may argue that the Mayor and the City should have released the video early on, the Mayor and the City abided by the Assistant District Attorney’s request given the pending case. On information and belief, Mrs. Cooper’s current employer, a lawyer, released the video last week. This has prompted public comments that we believe are misleading.”
As initially reported Aug. 6, the video appears to begin with Cooper seated at a workstation as another woman and later McMillan motion toward her computer. McMillan raises his right hand first toward the computer but then appears to turn toward Cooper and make contact with her left cheek. Cooper appears to move her head slightly but remains seated, as McMillan returns toward the computer.
But Briskman said McMillan never made contact.
“The Mayor has pleaded not guilty to the charge of harassment,’ he wrote “The Mayor maintains that he did not slap Mrs. Cooper. The video does NOT show his hand making contact with Mrs. Cooper’s face. As can be seen in the video, there is another person who was present just a few feet from the Mayor and Mrs. Cooper, and that witness, according to Mrs. Cooper’s complaint filed with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, did not see any alleged slap. When reviewing the video, it is important to take into account not only what you see but also what you don’t see. The trial court will have the benefit of seeing and hearing all of the evidence. As previously stated by Mayor McMillan, he believes that after a full and fair hearing, which would include a complete review of the full video (not the copy of the video recorded on a cell phone and released without authorization, but the full video preserved from the City’s server and provided to the Baldwin County Sheriff’s investigators), still photos from the video, witness testimony and all other evidence, the allegations against him will be disproved.”
Meanwhile, Cooper was terminated by the city in June and Briskman’s statement emphasized it was justified.
“Additionally, it has been asserted that the City of Spanish Fort terminated Mrs. Cooper’s employment in retaliation for her filing charges against the Mayor. This is false,” he wrote. “Mrs. Cooper was terminated for failure to perform job duties and insubordination in that she repeatedly refused to perform building access screening for COVID-19, the same type of screening performed by people across the country. Information related to Mrs. Cooper’s termination is a public record and available for review. Mayor McMillan recused himself and did not participate in Mrs. Cooper’s termination proceedings. As previously stated by Mayor McMillan, he believes that, after a full and fair hearing, the allegations against him will be disproved, and he will be exonerated. Persons charged with a crime are presumed innocent under the law.”
McMillan was first elected to the Spanish Fort City Council in 2004 and began his first term as mayor in 2012. In the municipal election next Tuesday, he faces three challengers: Rebecca Cornelius, Jeffrey Batley and David Westerfield.
UPDATE: After this story was published, Spanish Fort City Attorney David Conner released a similar statement on behalf of the city:
Lyndsey Cooper has made allegations against Mayor McMillan, and Mayor McMillan has asserted his innocence and pled not guilty to the charge against him. The Assistant District Attorney requested that the security video of the incident not be publicly released prior to trial in an effort to be fair to all parties, and the City agreed with that request. On information and belief, Mrs. Cooper’s current employer released some of the video last week, and he, along with others, have made public comments that we believe are misleading. The City believes that it is necessary to address some of those statements.
First, the City believes that a complete review of the full video, witness testimony, and all other evidence should be conducted in a court of law in order to make a fair determination of what occurred. The City of Spanish Fort has been very careful to respect the rights of all persons involved in this matter. The accuser has rights, and persons accused are innocent until proven guilty. The City will continue to cooperate in this matter in an effort to ensure that the parties receive a fair trial.
Second, some have suggested that the City tried to cover up and destroy video evidence and that the Baldwin County Sheriff’s investigators intervened to stop the destruction of the video. This is false. Once it was discovered that a video of the alleged incident existed, the City immediately contacted a third-party computer specialist to secure and preserve all information and videos on the City’s server. In full cooperation and consultation with Sheriff’s Office investigators, the City provided all video evidence and related download reports to law enforcement. There was no attempted cover up by the City or the Mayor.
Third, it has been asserted that the City of Spanish Fort terminated Mrs. Cooper’s employment in retaliation for her filing a charge against the Mayor. This is false. While this matter was being investigated internally, Mrs. Cooper filed her criminal complaint. It was determined that the City’s internal investigation should be placed on hold pending resolution of the criminal case. No adverse action was taken against Mrs. Cooper for her complaint. However, Mrs. Cooper was terminated effective June 1, approximately 8 months after the alleged incident, for failure to perform job duties and insubordination in that she refused to perform building access screenings for COVID-19 after
repeated requests and opportunity to perform the task. In Mrs. Cooper’s absence, other City employees have been performing the screenings in accordance with recommended health guidelines.
Information related to Mrs. Cooper’s termination is public record and is available for review now that her appeal proceeding has concluded. Mayor McMillan recused himself and did not participate in Ms. Cooper’s termination process. The action taken by the City was based solely on Mrs. Cooper’s refusal to perform assigned job duties.
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