Search Results for ‘Oliver Diaz’

Update: Jury clears Diaz of tax evasion charges

In the latest chapter of the long-running Mississippi judicial scandal (Dec. 10, etc.), a jury has cleared Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. of federal tax evasion charges. (Jimmie E. Gates, “Jury clears Diaz”, Jackson Clarion Ledger, Apr. 28; Julie Goodman, “Diaz acquittal fuels election questions”, Jackson Clarion Ledger, Apr. 29). Earlier, a jury had acquitted Diaz of corruption charges while failing to resolve charges against several other figures in the long-running case, who face retrial in August.

“Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Burkhalter said loans backed by prominent attorneys Richard Scruggs and Paul Minor were not repaid by the Diazes, ‘who used substantial amounts of the money for personal use. They didn’t put it on their tax return.'” (Shelia Byrd, “Diaz attorney says client didn’t deliberately withhold tax information”, AP/Biloxi Sun-Herald, Apr. 25). “Defense attorneys described Diaz as a disorganized fellow who left details such as taxes and finances to his wife and who would not knowingly hide income from the government.” (“Jury acquits Diaz in tax case”, AP/Biloxi Sun-Herald, Apr. 27; Jimmie E. Gates, “Prosecutor: Diaz didn’t report all funds to IRS”, Jackson Clarion Ledger, Apr. 26).

Mississippi latest: Diaz indicted on tax charges

Three days after a jury acquitted Mississippi supreme court justice Oliver Diaz Jr. of charges of taking bribes from prominent lawyer Paul Minor, U.S. District Court Judge Henry T. Wingate unsealed a tax evasion indictment against him which had been kept under wraps lest it prejudice jurors. Included are charges “of evading income taxes due for 2000 and 2001, when [Diaz and ex-wife Jennifer] received $155,000 in loans secured by personal injury attorneys Minor and Richard ‘Dickie’ Scruggs.” (Anita Lee, “Justice Diaz indicted on tax evasion charges”, Biloxi Sun-Herald, Aug. 15; “Diazes indicted”, Aug. 16). The Jackson Clarion-Ledger (Jerry Mitchell, “Diaz now faces tax evasion charges”, Aug. 16) notes that Diaz won’t be automatically removed from office even if convicted of the new charge:

Under state law, those convicted of the following crimes can remain in office -— manslaughter, tax violations, corruption, gambling or “dealing in futures with money coming to his hands by virtue of his office.”

On the other hand, it appears that a judicial watchdog tribunal would still have potential authority to remove Diaz if circumstances seem to warrant. (Geoff Pender, “Heads spinning at judicial watchdog agency”, BSH, Aug. 16; “New indictment makes Diaz’s reinstatement uncertain”, JCL, Aug. 16).

Jury acquits Diaz, other charges unresolved

A Jackson jury has acquitted Mississippi Supreme Court justice Oliver Diaz Jr. of all four charges against him. “The jurors found attorney Paul Minor [and] former trial judges John Whitfield and Wes Teel innocent of some of the 17 counts and failed to return a verdict on other charges.” (Biloxi Sun-Herald, Aug. 12; Jimmie Gates, “Diaz innocent on all judicial bribery charges; no verdict reached on some charges against three others”, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Aug. 12). Specifically, it cleared attorney Paul Minor of extortion, bribery and four mail fraud counts, while failing to reach a verdict on racketeering, wire fraud and two bribery counts against him; cleared former judge John Whitfield of wire fraud, while failing to reach a verdict on bribery and mail fraud charges; and failed to reach a verdict on bribery, wire fraud or mail fraud counts against former judge Wes Teel. For our earlier coverage, see Aug. 11, Aug. 7 and links from there.

Update: “Diaz, Minor face additional counts”

Mississippi Supreme Court scandal, cont’d: “A federal grand jury added extortion and attempted bribery charges Friday against Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. and trial lawyer Paul Minor, postponing their March 1 trial. … The new charges allege Minor in 2001 tried to extort $20,000 for Diaz from trial lawyers representing Dawn Bradshaw, who was awarded $9 million after poor hospital care led to pneumonia and brain damage.

“The high court upheld the $9 million verdict Oct. 11, 2001. According to the indictment, 14 days later, Minor told two unnamed lawyers that Diaz ‘helped swing the vote … in favor of their client, Dawn Bradshaw, and that the vote could have gone either way but for … Diaz’s influence,’ pointing out the justice would soon be voting on the motion for rehearing their case. Minor asked the pair for at least $20,000, which would pay for a function at the bed and breakfast operated by Jennifer Diaz [ex-wife of the justice], the indictment says. The lawyers refused, the indictment says.” Minor called the new charges “false” while his attorney, Abbe Lowell of Washington, D.C., called them “outrageous” and said his client would plead not guilty to them. An attorney for Diaz said his client neither spoke to the lawyers from whom the indictment says he attempted to extort money nor “authorized anyone to speak to them on his behalf.” (Jerry Mitchell, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Feb. 21). See Dec. 19, Aug. 19, Jul. 27 and links from there. Update Apr. 30, 2005: Diaz’s ex-wife reaches plea agreement with prosecutors.

Mississippi judicial bribery retrial

Retrial is getting under way in the high-profile case against prominent Gulf Coast plaintiff’s lawyer Paul Minor and two former judges. Earlier proceedings resulted in the acquittal of Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, Jr. of all charges and a mixture of not guilty findings and inability to reach a verdict in the case of other defendants. Our extensive coverage is here.

Update: Mississippi judicial corruption retrial

The retrial of the judicial bribery case against prominent attorney Paul Minor and two former state judges has now been set for Aug. 14, following delays requested by Minor’s attorneys (Anita Lee, “Judicial trial set Aug. 14”, Biloxi Sun-Herald, Feb. 11). And the federal tax evasion trial of Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. is now scheduled for Apr. 3 (“Diaz tax trial delayed”, Feb. 21). For more, see Dec. 10 and our many previous links.

Update: feds reindict in Mississippi scandal

“The federal government has indicted three defendants in a judicial bribery case for the fourth time, adding conspiracy to the list of charges against former Biloxi lawyer Paul Minor, former Circuit Court Judge John Whitfield and former Chancery Court Judge Wes Teel.” (Biloxi Sun-Herald; AP; Jackson Clarion-Ledger). In August, a jury acquitted state Supreme Court justice Oliver Diaz Jr. of all charges in the case, acquitted Minor and Whitfield of some charges, and was unable to reach agreement on the other counts against Minor, Whitfield and Teel. For our coverage, see Sept. 18, Aug. 17, Aug. 15, Aug. 11, etc. More legal woes for Minor: Julie Goodman, “Minor may lose bond following La. arrest”, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Nov. 5 (federal prosecutors allege violations of Minor’s bail requirements after police charge him at crash scene “with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, failure to maintain control, driving without an insurance certificate and reckless driving. …The motorist in the other car, who subsequently hired an attorney, complained of back and chest pain, he said”); “Attorney in bribery case faces new bond conditions”, AP/Biloxi Sun-Herald, Nov. 8; “Judge to consult doctor who tested Paul Minor”, AP/Sun-Herald, Nov. 25.

Mississippi verdict aftermath

As we reported Friday, a jury in the Magnolia State’s money-for-judges trial acquitted state supreme court justice Oliver Diaz Jr. of all charges, rendered not guilty verdicts on some of the charges against two of the three other defendants, and was unable to agree on verdicts in the other cases. Now Howard Bashman (Aug. 14) rounds up links to the extensive coverage of the case published in recent days in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and Biloxi Sun-Herald.

More: According to the Sun-Herald account, after agreeing on acquitting Diaz, nine jurors wanted to convict the other defendants of some charges, but three jurors insisted on across-the-board acquittals and would not budge from that position. “What’s wrong with helping a judge?” said juror Shirley Griffin, 64. “They were all friends. It was (Paul Minor’s) money, not the government’s money. It’s his business what he does with it. (Minor) has done a lot of good things. I don’t know him but I know of him, and he’s done a lot of good. And his daddy used to have articles in the paper.” Griffin described the holdouts against conviction as “me and the two white people”, which might be considered an unexpected pattern given that, as the Sun-Herald reported, “The defense team played to a jury of 10 blacks and two whites, frequently bringing up the defendants’ support for civil rights.” And the Clarion-Ledger reports: “The U.S. attorney’s office is uncertain it will retry Minor, former Circuit Judge John Whitfield and former Chancery Judge Wes Teel on charges the jury didn’t reach a verdict on.”

Jury deliberates in Miss. judicial scandal

Mississippi’s long-running judicial corruption trial is now in the hands of a jury. “The case has shown about $300,000 in loans, cash and third-party payments flowing from a wealthy lawyer to a state Supreme Court justice and local judges and apparent disregard of state campaign-finance and ethics rules.” (Geoff Pender, “A legal eye”, Biloxi Sun-Herald (henceforth BSH), Aug. 4; Julie Goodman, “Power, expertise convene in trial”, Jackson Clarion-Ledger (henceforth JCL), Aug. 1; Holbrook Mohr, “Defense lawyer denies unfair link between judges, attorney”, AP/BSH, Aug. 5; Julie Goodman, “Deliberations begin in Diaz fraud case”, JCL, Aug. 6).

The indictments in the case were handed down after a federal investigation found that prominent plaintiff’s attorney Paul Minor had funneled money and services to several local judges; at the trial, lawyer Bobby Dallas testified that Minor urged him to channel $20-40,000 to state Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., implying a connection between such assistance and Diaz’s help in preserving a multi-million-dollar award for one of Dallas’s clients before the high court. (“Lawyer says he was pressured to give money to Miss. justice”, AP/Picayune Item, Jul. 7). Diaz’s lawyers pointed out at trial that their client did not rule on any of Minor’s own cases before the court, while prosecutors sought to establish that Diaz removed himself from one large such case only after headlines had appeared announcing a federal investigation of his dealings with Minor (Geoff Pender, “Diaz’s actions, inactions probed”, BSH, Jun. 29; Julie Goodman and Jimmie E. Gates, “Diaz defense: No evidence of corruption”, JCL, Jul. 3).

As the trial neared its end, Judge Wingate dismissed solicitation of bribery and extortion charges against Diaz, leaving four remaining counts against him, and one solicitation of bribery charge against Minor, leaving more than a dozen counts against him. Wingate said prosecutors had failed to establish that Diaz knew of conversations in which Minor allegedly applied improper pressure on attorneys to donate to Diaz. (“Judge dismisses bribery count in judicial bribery trial”, Picayune Item, Aug. 3). Former Circuit Judge John Whitfield and former Chancery Judge Wes Teel are also defendants along with Minor and Diaz, both accused of receiving improper payments from Minor.

Neither side called Richard (“Dickie”) Scruggs as a witness, although colorful testimony emerged about his support for the Mississippi judiciary:

Scruggs’ personal secretary, prosecution witness Charlene Bosarge, supplied a bag of cash to Jennifer Diaz [then-wife of Justice Diaz] for the campaign, Jennifer Diaz told FBI agents.

During the April 13-14, 2005, FBI interviews, Jennifer Diaz said Scruggs and Bosarge promised more cash if they could find names to go with it for state campaign disclosure forms. Beginning in 1999, state law limited Supreme Court contributions to $5,000 per person.

Neither side called Jennifer Diaz as a witness, either. (Anita Lee, “Minor defense: Scruggs took lead role in backing Diaz campaign”, BSH, Jul. 29) A major defense theme was that the failure of the prosecution to bring charges against Scruggs proved its political motivation (the prosecutors can’t win, since when charges against Scruggs were in the air they were accused of being politically motivated)(“Government withheld info in Diaz trial, defense says”, AP/JCL, Jul. 28; Anita Lee, “FBI notes steer strategy in judicial trial”, BSH, Aug. 2). According to testimony from Jackson attorney Danny Cupit, Scruggs attempted to convince then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in 2000 to appoint Judge William Myers to a vacancy on the state high court; Myers had presided over the tobacco-Medicaid suit that made Scruggs a gazillionaire. (“Lawyer says he was pressured to give money to Miss. justice”, AP/Picayune Item, Jul. 7).

Supporters of the various defendants turned out in numbers in the courtroom, among them former state Supreme Court Justice Chuck McRae (Anita Lee, “Judge issues jury instructions”, BSH, Aug. 4; Geoff Pender, “Ex-Justice McRae turns up to support Diaz”, BSH, Aug. 5). For our previous coverage of the case, see Oct. 9-10 and Oct. 11-13, 2002; May 7, Jul. 24, Jul. 27, Aug. 19 and Dec. 19, 2003; Feb. 22 and Jul. 12, 2004; and Apr. 30, 2005.

Update: Miss. judge’s wife may cooperate with prosecutors

Jennifer Diaz, ex-wife of Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., has struck a plea agreement with prosecutors and may become “a witness against him and others charged in a federal corruption probe”. “In 2000, Jennifer Diaz received a loan for campaign funds that was guaranteed by prominent trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs in the amount of $80,000,” but did not report the amount as income when Scruggs forgave the debt. Scruggs was not charged in the investigation, which led to indictments of the Diazes, prominent trial lawyer Paul Minor, and two former judges; trial on the charges “is set to begin May 9 in Jackson”. (Jerry Mitchell and Julie Goodman, “Judge’s ex-wife might be prosecution witness, officials say”, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Apr. 26). See Feb. 22, 2004 and links from there.