Alleged exploitive photos of Senator's wife raise questions about nursing home privacy

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Visitation protocols at a Mississippi continuing care retirement community are under scrutiny after a blogger was jailed for allegedly taking an unauthorized photograph of the wife of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (MS-R).

Police in the town of Madison arrested political blogger Clayton Thomas Kelly on Friday night and jailed him on charges of exploiting a vulnerable adult, according to local reports. On Sunday, a municipal judge left in place a $100,000 bond and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Thursday.

Authorities claim that Kelly gained access to St. Catherine's Village, the CCRC in Madison where Cochran's wife, Rose, has resided for 14 years. She is receiving skilled care for dementia. Kelly allegedly took photos of Rose Cochran and put them in an Internet video criticizing the senator. The video quickly was taken down, for reasons that remain unclear.

Kelly supports Sen. Cochran's primary opponent, hardline conservative state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R). The video might have been attempting to insinuate that Cochran has been carrying on an affair while his wife is in poor health, some reports have speculated.

Authorities continue to investigate how Kelly gained access to the CCRC. Kelly's attorney told news outlets that the photo was taken through an open door during normal visiting hours, and that his client “didn't do anything out of the norms of visitation.”

The blogger's wife, Tara Kelly, gave a local newspaper a visitor vehicle pass she says came from St. Catherine's Village. The name of the CCRC is on the pass, along with text that it “authorizes the bearer to enter and park on the grounds.” It is dated simply “Sunday.”

Police have said they also are investigating a potential “conspiracy,” but did not specify if CCRC staff are under suspicion of aiding Kelly.

A spokeswoman for St. Catherine's Village had not returned a telephone call from McKnight's as of press time.

The arrest has thrown the primary into turmoil, with Cochran's campaign charging that McDaniel's campaign lied about knowing nothing about the incident prior to Kelly's arrest. Both campaigns have strongly condemned Kelly in public statements.

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