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Blogger accused of exploiting Mississippi senator's ailing wife

By Therese Apel

JACKSON, Mississippi (Reuters) - A Mississippi blogger has been jailed on exploitation-related charges for posting photographs of U.S. Senator Thad Cochran's bedridden wife to the Internet after gaining access to her in a nursing home.

Clayton Kelly, 28, is accused of sneaking into St. Catherine's Village, a continuing care retirement community in Madison, Mississippi, where Cochran's wife Rose has lived since 2000, suffering from progressive dementia.

Kelly was booked into the Madison County jail on Saturday after he "illegally and improperly obtained an image of a vulnerable adult resident without their consent for his own benefit," Madison police said in a statement. Kelly was being held on a $100,000 bond, records show.

The investigation into how Kelly got in to see her is ongoing, Madison Police Captain Kevin Newman said.

Kelly's arrest comes less than three weeks before Mississippi's U.S. Senate primary. Cochran, 76, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978, is being challenged by state Senator Chris McDaniel in the Republican primary on June 3.

McDaniel and his campaign manager on Saturday firmly denied any connection with Kelly, who runs the conservative blog, "Constitutional Clayton" and has displayed a photo of himself with McDaniel on his blog in the past.

"The campaign has no relationship with Mr. Clayton Kelly in either a volunteer or official capacity," McDaniel campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch said.

McDaniel said in a statement Saturday that Kelly's actions were "reprehensible" and he had contacted Cochran directly.

"This criminal act is deeply offensive and my team and I categorically reject any such appalling behavior," he said.

Cochran's lawyer, Donald Clark Jr., said his firm contacted police when they determined that a crime had been committed.

"As you can imagine, Senator Cochran's first concern was that of the safety of his wife as well as the invasion of her privacy and dignity," Clark said.

In his own statement, Cochran said the family would continue doing everything it could to protect his wife's safety.

"I have been fortunate to have a wonderful family, and like so many families, we are deeply affected by my wife's serious, long-term illness, that we consider to be a very private family matter," Cochran said in the statement.

(Reporting by Therese Apel in Jackson, Mississippi; Editing by Kevin Murphy and Lisa Shumaker)

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