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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Two Former Judges Headed to Prison for Taking Bribes (MORE, CLICK HERE)

By Holbrook Mohr - The Associated Press -New York Lawyer - December 31, 2007

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two former judges report to federal prison Thursday to begin serving lengthy sentences for their roles in a judicial bribery scandal that entangled one of the state's most prominent plaintiffs attorneys.

Former Circuit Judge John Whitfield and former Chancery Judge Wes Teel, both of Harrison County on the Mississippi coast, were convicted in March of bribery and mail fraud.

Whitfield, 45, was sentenced to more than nine years. Teel, 57, was sentenced to almost six years.

Paul Minor, who was convicted of bribing the judges, is already serving an 11-year sentence in a federal prison in Pensacola, Fla. The 61-year-old Minor was once considered among the top trial lawyers in Mississippi, amassing a fortune from tobacco, asbestos and other litigation.

Prosecutors say Minor orchestrated a complicated scheme in which he guaranteed loans for the judges, then used cash and third parties in an attempt to conceal the fact that Minor paid off the loans. The judges were convicted of giving Minor's clients favorable rulings in civil cases in exchange for the money.

The men were all sentenced in September, but U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate allowed the former judges to report to prison after Christmas so they could get their affairs in order.

Minor had violated the terms of his pretrial bond, including for alleged excessive drinking, and was already behind bars at the time of his conviction.

It was not clear Wednesday where Whitfield and Teel will serve their time. Mike Truman, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said that information would not be made public until the two were processed into a facility.

"Once they arrive at their destination, then we can report it," Truman said.

Whitfield will report to prison Thursday at 9 a.m., said his attorney Michael Crosby.

"He really didn't want to say the location before he gets there," Crosby said. "He has expressed how much it means for all the prayers that have come in. He's going to get through this."

Teel's attorney did not immediately respond to a message left Wednesday.

Teel had requested to serve his time in west Florida or south Alabama. However, it appears from court documents that Teel could, at least temporarily, be headed for a facility in Georgia.

Teel asked to remain free during his appeal, in part, because his "initial assignment" to a prison in Atlanta would make it difficult for his family to visit, according to a court order dated Dec. 21. The request for an appeal bond was denied.

Teel's son, Ryan Michael Teel, a former jailer who is serving a life sentence for the 2006 beating death of an inmate in Harrison County, is also serving time in the federal prison in Atlanta.

The Atlanta facility is a maximum security prison with a "satellite camp" for lower security inmates, Truman said.

Truman said it is possible for two members of the same family to be housed in the same facility, "but it depends on the security needs of each one."

The father and son probably won't spend time in the same area of the facility; Wes Teel likely will classified as a lower security level inmate than his son, who was convicted of a violent crime.

The severity of the crime, history of violence and the length of sentence are among several factors considered when placing federal inmates, Truman said.

Minor and the former judges are appealing their convictions. They claim to be the victims of a politically charged investigation by a Republican controlled Justice Department that wanted to bring an end to Minor's financial support of Democratic candidates.

Prosecutors, however, say the jurors made a sound decision in finding the men guilty at the end of a second, three-month trial. The first trial in 2005 ended with the acquittal of Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. The jurors couldn't come to a decision on some of the charges against the other defendants in that first trial and Diaz was the only one cleared of all charges. Diaz has since returned to the bench.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh God.....could this happen NY.....SOON!

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See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
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