Former Southaven Mayor Greg Davis found not guilty in fraud, embezzlement retrial

OXFORD, Miss. -- A jury has found former Southaven Mayor Greg Davis not guilty of embezzlement and felony fraud.

He was accused of stealing money from the city he led, something he repeatedly denied even though he paid back tens of thousands of dollars.

Davis' previous 2014 conviction for fraud and embezzlement was overturned, because the Mississippi Court of Appeals said he didn't get a fair trial in DeSoto County.

The new trial was held in Oxford, Mississippi.

The jury was selected Monday morning followed by opening statements and witness testimony in the afternoon.

Davis testified Tuesday morning for two hours followed by closing arguments in the afternoon.

The jury deliberated for about a hour and a half.

When the verdict was read, Davis and his attorney, Steve Farese, embraced and cried tears of joy.

"For five years my family and friends have suffered along side my side. Stood by me and giving me support," Davis said. "No one can know what it's like to be accused of something. Found guilty of something. And then have to fight and prove your innocence. Today we were able to do that."

Defense attorney Steve Farese credited the relocation of the trial for the different verdict, explaining only four jurors in Lafayette County had heard about the case compared to as many as 80 in DeSoto County.

"Obviously I'm disappointed," District Attorney John Champion said. "I respect the jury's verdict, always have. That's why we don't make the decisions in these cases. They're made by citizens. I'm left with no choice but to respect their decision."

Champion, who prosecuted the case, said he followed what he did last trial except his key witness, the deputy city clerk at the time, has passed away. Champion had to read her precious testimony to the jury.

"I thought our proof went in perfect. Just up to the folks on the jury to make the decision whether there was enough there or not," he said.

Davis said he may write a tell-all book and added law school is perhaps in his future.

"A huge relief. Finally after five years I can move on," he said.