Mark Mayfield is an attorney, Madison County Republican Party leader and officer in multiple tea party organizations.
Richard Sager is an elementary school physical education teacher and high school soccer coach.
And John Mary is a political activist who once co-hosted The Right Side Radio Show with Jack Fairchilds — and occasionally with Chris McDaniel.
The three men found themselves at the center of the Rose Cochran scandal Thursday when they were arrested on conspiracy charges. Sager also faces a charge of tampering with evidence.
The McDaniel campaign has continually denied any involvement with the alleged illegal photographing of Cochran by 28-year-old Pearl blogger Clayton Kelly. While all three men arrested Thursday are McDaniel supporters, none of them have any official role with the campaign.
Furthermore, the three men seem relatively unconnected from each other save for their association with various tea party groups and their shared support of McDaniel's campaign to knock off incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the GOP primary on June 3. But they all intersect online — especially on Facebook.
Mary is the most mysterious of the three. The Hattiesburg resident is also known by his radio name, John Bert. When McDaniel was elected to the state Senate and left the WMXI radio program he started — and which recordings of have caused the candidate heartburn during the campaign — Mary became co-host to Fairchilds, who had co-hosted with McDaniel.
But Mary and McDaniel are no strangers. McDaniel continued to participate with the radio program and was a regular guest host. According to internet postings, Mary and McDaniel even regularly co-hosted together when McDaniel would visit the show.
Multiple attempts to speak with McDaniel and campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch for comment on the candidate's relationship with Mary went unanswered. Fritsch acknowledged via text the receipt of a call but did not return the call or multiple texts. A voicemail to McDaniel also went unreturned.
Mary is also a former member of the Hattiesburg Tea Party, but he seems to have limited involvement with other tea party groups, such as the Mississippi Tea Party, which purports to be the umbrella organization for several regional tea party groups. One such group is the Central Mississippi Tea Party, for which Mayfield is a member of the board of directors.
mayfield and mcdaniel
Mayfield's connection to the McDaniel campaign seems to be the strongest. Mayfield is listed as the vice chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party, which was quick to endorse McDaniel when he announced his candidacy. Mayfield was also one of the more active volunteers with the campaign. He helped distribute literature and yard signs. The Ridgeland attorney repeatedly posted in Facebook comments about where people could pick up campaign material and about upcoming events. Mayfield apparently volunteered in a campaign office on Lakeland Drive in the shopping center behind Mugshots. And Mayfield contributed $500 to McDaniel's campaign.
But Mayfield's political involvement also extended into McDaniel's work as a state senator. Mayfield was at the Capitol often during legislative sessions, and he helped organize political events aimed at fiscal issues pushed by the Senate Conservative Coalition, which McDaniel started. In 2009, Mayfield helped organize the first Tax Day Tea Party event in the state with WJNT radio host Kim Wade. One of the headliners of that event was McDaniel.
Those who know Mayfield have all expressed surprise at his arrest. He is often described as a smart attorney, active community member and nice guy. Commenters online lit up articles and social media posts with disbelief that Mayfield could be involved in something McDaniel himself called "out of bounds for politics and is reprehensible."
The same disbelief was expressed by those who know Sager. The former head soccer coach for Mississippi Delta Community College is an active member of the Laurel community and a well-liked elementary school teacher. In addition to serving as assistant soccer coach for Laurel High School, he coaches recreational soccer for the local parks and recreation department.
But based on the charges, Sager's alleged involvement runs far deeper than that of Mary and Mayfield. In addition to conspiracy, Sager has been charged with felony obstruction of justice. To what extent, neither investigators with the Madison Police Department nor the district attorney are saying.
At the same time, Sager's relationship to McDaniel is a little murkier in some senses. While he's a supporter and has posted pro-McDaniel sentiments — including spreading the word about campaign events in the Laurel area — his online activity is more sparse than that of Mayfield and Mary.
However, one obvious connection to McDaniel is their shared hometown — Ellisville. The small town boasts a population of less than 5,000.
For McDaniel's part, his campaign remains above official suspicion in relationship to this sordid affair. District Attorney Michael Guest has said that he knows of no involvement by the campaign, though he adds that it has not been officially cleared. Guest has said the grand jury will make the final determination. Nevertheless, while McDaniel may be free of any legal entanglement, the impact of any political entanglement is yet to be seen.