For most Ole Miss fans, time on the internet and Twitter during January focused on obsessing over all things transfer portal. If a story didn’t involve a linebacker or defensive back with the potential to come to Ole Miss and contribute right away, it fell down the Daily Life Importance Power Rankings™ (super healthy!).
That held true until the Jerrell Powe alleged kidnapping and arrest story began rolling out over the last week or so. After initial reports about Powe’s arrest came out early last week, Anna Wolfe* of Mississippi Today dropped this must-read detailed piece (seriously, stop and go read it if you haven’t) on Tuesday, which takes a deep dive into the events and people surrounding his arrest.
*Anna Wolfe taking a break from leading the reporting on the welfare scandal in Mississippi and getting the Powe story during said break is a pretty big flex.
In perhaps the understatement of the young year, there is A LOT going on with this story seemingly created out of Mad Libs. To help unpack the details, let’s walk through it piece by piece.
Before we wade in, my legal training is the equivalent of Lionel Hutz, the Phil Hartman-voiced lawyer on The Simpsons, telling Marge Simpson, “I was watching Matlock in a bar last night. The sound wasn’t on, but I got the gist of it.” So keep that in mind if I unintentionally stray into lawyer analysis territory.
What’s the 10,000-foot version of what happened?
Powe and another individual were arrested in Ridgeland on January 12th for allegedly kidnapping a man named Bryce Mathis. According to Mathis, Powe and the other individual forced him to travel with them from Laurel to a bank in Ridgeland to withdraw money they said he owed them.
While inside the bank, Mathis said he told a teller he had been kidnapped, and we can assume the teller or someone else called the police. After arriving and listening to Mathis’ version of events, police arrested Powe and the other individual on kidnapping charges. Powe and the other individual both bonded out later last week.
According to Powe’s attorney Tom Fortner, what actually happened is “going to turn out to be much different than what the police think it is.”
Wait, do what now?
So who is Bryce Mathis?
From the Mississippi Today piece:
Mathis, owner of a number of LLCs including Endless Esports, Endless Media and Chickasawhay Medical, the marijuana startup, is an Air Force veteran-turned-entrepreneur from Waynesboro, Mississippi, according to his online profiles. His primary business, Endless Holdings LLC, is not filed as a company in Mississippi.
What’s the deal with starting everything with “Endless”?
No idea. It feels like an early name for what eventually became Entertainment 720 on Parks and Rec.
Is the Endless Holdings mission statement a buzzwords vomit session?
You know it is! From the website referenced above:
Endless Holdings is a group of individual who possess unique perspective, education, and experience. Together, we are focused on opportunities that improve lifestyle and freedom while creating impact and influence in multiple verticals.
Without a doubt, the single worst thing I’ve read in like 5 years.
Okay, getting back on track. How did Powe know Mathis?
Powe was in a group of investors who collectively gave Mathis $300,000 last year to develope a successful medial marijuana start-up. It’s unclear how well Powe knew Mathis prior to giving him money, but according to the Mississippi Today piece, friends warned Powe not to go into business with him, which indicates he may not have know him well but knew of him.
Why did people warn Powe not to go into business with Mathis?
Apparently, Mathis had experience in taking people’s money and not spending it on his business proposals. In 2019, Mathis was indicted for false pretenses and mail fraud related to him defrauding a lumber company in Covington County, Mississippi to the tune of $66,000.
The charges were dropped when he paid the lumber company what he owed them. That appears to be the only time he faced criminal charges, despite stories from others who chose to invest in one of his business ventures.
From Mississippi Today:
Mississippi Today spoke with more than half a dozen people who said Mathis either owed them money or failed to make promised investments. By their own tally, they estimate Mathis could owe a combined $1.2 million. In some cases, Mathis paid back his creditors, but only after they put immense pressure on Mathis, and even then, the money came from another individual.
Their stories include a list of excuses from Mathis about why he never delivered what he promised, even though he was paid to do so. Instead, Mathis took their money and allegedly spent it on his personal entertainment.
In a state where everybody knows everybody and people love to talk, word most certainly got around that Mathis shouldn’t be trusted.
So what did Mathis allegedly do to Powe and his fellow investors?
Based on the Mississippi Today piece, the same thing he did to previous investors, which was not spend their money on what they agreed upon. On January 11th, the day before Powe’s arrest, Powe and the other investors had a Come to Jesus Meeting conference call with Mathis, telling him they wanted their money back after a year of getting evasive maneuvers from him.
Ugh, conference calls are the worst, right?
What was the outcome of the conference call?
Welllllllll, here’s where things allegedly JUMP UP A NOTCH. As the call happened, Powe, Mathis, and Gavin Bates (the aforementioned other individual who is a marijuana grower in California and investor) were dialed in while on the road from Laurel* to the bank in Ridgeland, which is where Mathis apparently told them their money was.
*If you’re not familiar with Mississippi geography, Laurel is in the southeast part of the state and about an hour and a half from Ridgeland, which is a suburb of Jackson in the central part of the state.
That means, either prior to the call or during it, Powe, Mathis, and Bates got in the same car and began driving to Ridgeland. Whether this was an agreed upon decision by all three men, we don’t know. Mathis obviously contends it wasn’t, but Powe, through his lawyer, and other investors on the call imply that it was.
According to people on the call, Mathis said he wanted to “make this right” and return their money. They all said that they believed he voluntarily wanted to go to the bank to withdraw their money and repay them.
What allegedly happened when they got to the bank?
It was closed. BANKING HOURS, AMIRITE.
The group decided to spend the night and return to the bank in the morning. They then drove to Pearl* to stay in a hotel that was near a Tesla charging station because apparently they rented a Tesla in Laurel for the trip (???????). I have many questions about the timing and logistical choices of this trip.
*If you’re not familiar with the Jackson metro area, choosing to stay in Pearl when the purpose of your trip is in Ridgeland means you are a lunatic. Entirely possible Pearl really was the nearest charging station, BUT LOOK AT THIS:
As someone who grew up in the Jackson area, your rideshare app of choice (NO FREE ADS) would be justified in charging you $250 to make that drive.
Well, surely that was when it stopped getting outrageous.
It was not! According to Mathis, Powe slept on top of his legs in the Pearl hotel room to make sure he didn’t take off in the middle of the night and hitchhike on I-20, I guess?
Of the entire story, this comes across as the most ridiculous claim (but possibly true?). Jerrell Powe strikes me as someone who values his sleep, and there is no way on God’s green earth he is getting quality sack time with someone’s legs sticking in his ribs.
What happened when they went back to the bank in the morning?
Powe and Mathis went into the bank, while Bates stayed in the fully Pearl-charged Tesla outside. As Powe scrolled through Snapchat while waiting on something boring to finish (RELATABLE), Mathis told the teller he had been kidnapped.
When the police arrived, Powe told them he and Mathis were there because Mathis agreed to withdraw the money to repay himself and the other investors. The Ridgeland cops chose to believe Mathis’ version and arrested Powe and Bates.
So is it Powe’s word against Mathis’?
According to Ridgeland Municipal Court prosecutor Boty McDonald, he has emails, texts, and voice messages, presumably from Powe and others, that indicate a plan to force Mathis into returning their money.
Doing the obvious math, Mathis provided all of these, which, if his story is true, is strong evidence for his case. But if his story is crap, who knows how well these alleged emails, texts, and voice messages hold up independently.
Like any prosecutor trying to gain momentum via the media, he offered nothing more.
Is that it?
Nope. Shortly after Powe and Bates were arrested, United States Marshalls arrested a Texas woman named Angie McClelland, who was an investor in the project, for conspiracy tied to the alleged kidnapping. Additionally, they arrested Cooper Leggett, a lawyer for the Wayne County Board of Supervisors, which was also involved in the project.
Well, that doesn’t seem great.
It does not. HOWEVER, there is an interesting note from a man named Rod Howard, who was another investor in the marijuana start-up. According to Howard, Mathis contacted him to come to Mississippi (Howard lives in Pennsylvania) a few days before the alleged kidnapping.
Mathis told Howard they would go to the bank and get his money. Howard said he came to Mississippi twice before on the promise of getting money from Mathis and didn’t receive any. He chose not to visit this time.
Once again, Mississippi Today:
“He told me to come down multiple times, ‘And we’ll go to the bank,’” Howard said. “… Was he trying to set me up too, get me to come down and get me wrapped up on all that stuff too? Like what was his plan?”
Okay, I need a cold domestic or something stronger after all of that. What’s next?
Uncertainty abounds, especially given the only witness to the alleged kidnapping has apparently dropped off the radar, which is totally what someone who says they’re telling the truth does. People who have been involved with Mathis believe he’s left the state and that his kidnapping claim was a calculated performance to buy time to run from the people from which he stole.
The Ridgeland prosecutor has not brought the case to a grand jury, though I have no idea what that timeline usually is (see: watching Matlock in a bar with no sound). As for Jerrell Powe, he feels confident in his story of these events.
Thank you to my family and friends that's supported me. I love y'all. Just know I'm doin good, and we gone be fine. https://t.co/Aoa5zN5qoP— Jerrell Powe (@jpowe57) January 24, 2023