Scott Colom

Scott Colom

Overview

* Was elected DA of Mississippi’s Sixteenth Circuit Court in 2015
* Received enormous financial support from multibillionaire George Soros for 2015 DA campaign
* Believes that police officers and the criminal-justice system are infested with anti-black racism


Born in 1983, Scott Colom is a native of Columbus, Mississippi, where he and his brother were raised in a large mansion located in an affluent part of the city. After graduating from Columbus High School in 2001, Colom earned a B.A. degree in History and English from Millsaps College in 2005. Following his undergraduate studies, he taught English in Guyana, South America, through a Harvard-affiliated nonprofit group called WorldTeach. In 2009, Colom obtained a J.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School. During his time as a law student, he interned in Tanzania with the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. He also interned with the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

After completing his legal education, Colom was selected for the Skadden Fellowship program and worked for the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ), an organization professing a commitment to “dismantling the policies that keep Mississippi at the bottom of nearly every indicator of human well-being and deny African American and lower-income Mississippians the opportunity to advance themselves.”

Colom left MCJ to work briefly in private practice at his own Colom Law Firm in Columbus. He was subsequently appointed to serve as the Interim Justice Court Judge for Lowndes County, Mississippi in 2011; Municipal Court Judge for Aberdeen, Mississippi in 2012; and a Columbus city prosecutor in 2013.

In 2015, Colom challenged longtime incumbent prosecutor Forrest Allgood for the position of District Attorney of Mississippi’s Sixteenth Circuit Court, which encompassed Clay, Lowndes, Oktibbeha, and Noxubee Counties. He campaigned as a “progressive” Democrat seeking to help bring about a brand of “criminal justice reform” that would “lock fewer people up, stop treating drug addiction as a crime, and expand rehab services.” As Colom’s campaign website elaborated:

“Drug Addiction destroys the lives of too many young people, which is why I will aggressively prosecute those who bring drugs into our communities and prey on our children. However, studies show that treatment for drug addiction is often much more effective at preventing future drug use than incarceration and less costly to taxpayers. As District Attorney, when appropriate and after careful review, I will consider rehabilitation for non-violent drug offenders, especially young first time offenders. This rehabilitation will include strong monitoring and drug testing by our Circuit Court Judges through the Drug Court in our District. I believe considering rehabilitation over incarceration for non-violent drug offenders is important because it will give our young people the opportunity to get their lives back on track.”

Colom’s campaign received enormous support from leftist multibillionaire George Soros, whose Mississippi Safety & Justice Political Action Committee (MSJPAC) funneled some $926,500 to Colom during the 2015 election cycle. Soros — a resident of Westchester County, New York — established MSJPAC in 2015 specifically to help Colom get elected to a position from which he would be able to advance a radical leftwing agenda within one of the most traditionally conservative states in America. New York magazine has explained how Colom was among the first radical prosecutors in America who drew support from Soros:

“For almost three decades, Soros has been quietly funding efforts to end the drug war and reduce the inmate population. Throughout the ’90s and 2000s, he was behind almost every state ballot initiative to legalize marijuana and has given millions in grants for liberal legal scholarship. It was Colom’s luck that in 2015 he’d adopted a new strategy: backing progressives in local elections, specifically DAs, who every day make decisions about whom to charge, with how serious of a crime; whether to engage in plea negotiations; how much prison time, if any, to recommend. In other words, unlike legislators, government lawyers have the power to push down incarceration rates with the stroke of a pen, or a word to a judge. Colom was one of his first test cases.”

In November 2015, Colom won approximately 54% of the vote in defeating the more traditional “tough-on-crime” approach of Allgood, who ran as an Independent and had held the office of DA since 1989. Following his election victory, Colom downplayed the effects of the funding he had received from Soros: “It doesn’t matter how much money I had,” he claimed. “It was the message.” Forrest Allgood, whose campaign had raised just $49,000 in comparison to the massive sum that Colom received from Soros, remarked that the race for DA was “certainly not a level playing field.” Colom, for his part, attributed his victory to the personal brand of “courage” he himself had displayed by arguing that “sending non-violent offenders to jail for a long period of time is not productive for society and [is] counterproductive for the individual.”

When Colom took office in January 2016, he was intent on reducing incarceration rates, expanding alternatives to prison for young first-time offenders, and softening the penalties for drug crimes. Claiming that rehabilitation programs, rather than conventional forms of carceral punishment, constituted the proper way of dealing with drug offenders, Colom was responsible for doubling the number of people participating in an alternative sentencing program by the end of his first year in office. Under Colom’s leadership, this program was equipped to: (a) help participants receive rehabilitative therapies and enter GED programs or vocational training; (b) arrange transportation by which the participants could attend their various counseling and educational meetings; and (c) help participants get their criminal charges dropped upon successful completion of the program.

Exhorting elected officials to embrace “criminal justice reform,” Colom, from the beginning of his tenure as DA, denounced the so-called “tough-on-crime” approach for having “wasted limited state funds and ruined lives.” As he wrote in a December 2016 op-ed:

“When I decided to run for district attorney, my opponent was a 27-year incumbent with a well-earned reputation for chasing severe sentences. I, on the other hand, was a 32-year- old who thought America, and especially Mississippi, sent too many people to prison for nonviolent crimes. […] Mississippi had the second highest incarceration rate in the country. […] If tough on crime meant sending a lot of people to prison, including non-violent offenders, I had no chance of winning. I needed to challenge that paradigm and reassure voters that improving public safety and confronting mass incarceration were twin goals. I needed to offer alternatives that would keep the community safe and help people avoid the scars of prison. […]

“During campaign speeches, I acknowledged the importance of being tough on violent crime, but also highlighted the reasons to be smart on non-violent crimes. Prison has a lasting impact on people’s ability to get jobs or housing. A lack of adequate investment in rehabilitation services in our current prison system causes a cycle of incarceration. […] Given this reality, I campaigned on the notion that we needed to find alternatives to incarceration. Programs like pre-trial diversion can help people deal with their underlying problems, such as drug addiction or unemployment. […]

“I’m not naïve enough to think my election indicates a trend. It took decades to build the ‘tough on crime’ mentality that persists today and it will require dedicated leaders to capture the national spirit and define a new approach. […] I’ve also spoken with district attorneys from around the country who believe that we can lead this culture shift in the justice system. […] The voters in my district gave this new approach a chance and I think the country is also ready for a criminal justice system that realizes it is better to be smart on crime than tough.”

In 2019, Colom ran unopposed for reelection as DA and won in a landslide.

Colom is sympathetic to the view that police officers and the criminal-justice system are systematically racist against black Americans. Regarding the difficulty of prosecuting crimes in African American communities, he said in October 2021: “A lot of times, if you have a person who feels they have been abused by police, they may be reluctant to testify or cooperate with investigations. […] Something I think we all should be able to admit is that we are human and we have biases, based on what we see or hear in the media or our own personal experiences. Those biases can affect our judgment of people in a way that is unfair.”

A few days after the infamous death of George Floyd in a May 25, 2020 altercation with police officers in Minneapolis, Colom publicly condemned Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s May 28th decision to dismiss manslaughter charges against Canyon Boykin, a white Columbus police officer who had fatally shot a black man named Ricky Ball following a roadside stop in 2015. Boykin testified that he had justifiably acted in self-defense after Ball pointed a gun at him during their encounter, and Fitch’s office ultimately concluded that Boykin’s account of the incident was accurate. Alluding to the recent death of George Floyd, Colom stated that Fitch’s decision “to pick this moment for no reason, to dismiss it [the case against Officer Boykin], it just felt like it was a gut punch.” “If [African Americans] don’t believe that their children can be protected from police brutality, then the whole system crumbles,” Colom added

In November 2021, U.S. Representative  Bennie Thompson, a member of both the Congressional Black and Progressive caucuses, recommended Colom to fill a vacancy as a judge with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. If his recommendation were to be approved by President Joe Biden, the U.S. Senate would hold a confirmation hearing for Colom’s nomination.

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