Misdemeanor Case Heard Monday against Harper

Meridian, Miss. A ruling may come this week in the case brought against a former Meridian cop for allegedly impersonating an officer.

Municipal Judge Chris Falgout heard testimony Monday morning involving the misdemeanor charge brought by Meridian police against former officer, Dean Harper.

For almost two hours a crowd awaited outside the doors of Meridian Municipal Court Monday morning for their cases to be heard. During that time the doors to the front of the courtroom were closed to the general public.

The charge stems from an incident in November 2013, almost two weeks after Harper had been fired from the Meridian Police Department.

It involved a phone call that Harper says he made to the local dispatch office while working for the MSU Meridian Police Department. At the time he was inquiring about whether or not a downtown business near the school's property was open.

The city prosecutor called five witnesses, including Police Chief James Lee and several dispatchers. Harper testified in his own behalf.

During testimony, Harper stated that it was 'a slip of the tongue mistake' that he made when he used the call sign he had previously had with MPD during that call.

His attorney contends that Harper's comment was an honest mistake.

"There's got to be proof of criminal intent," said Harper's attorney, Bill Ready, Jr. "Well, the motion that I made at the conclusion of the state's case was that there was no testimony or evidence by anybody of any willful intent. The testimony showed that this man made a call as a Mississippi State Campus Police Officer requesting information to protect his students, his employees, and the citizens under his charge."

Given this, and other concerns Ready is asking the judge to dismiss the case.

"It's obviously a witch hunt going on to ruin a good officer because statute 99-3-28 clearly states that any law enforcement officer who's going to be charged with a crime, before they can be charged and arrested, must have a probable cause hearing presented by the county prosecuting attorney to a circuit judge, and that's what I kept pounding on," Ready said.

Although she declined to speak on camera, the prosecuting attorney, Amanda Traywick Rainey, says she feels that she has solid case against Harper.

Judge Falgout said he will hopefully have his decision by the end of the week. He also gave both sides until the end of the business day Wednesday to submit more information for his consideration.

If Harper were to be found guilty, he could face up to a $500 fine and no more than six months in jail.

Prior to being fired, Harper had worked 22 years with the Meridian Police Department. He's currently employed with the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department and MSU Meridian Police Department.