Former DMR Director Sentenced To Five Years In PrisonBy Evelina Burnett | Published 16 Jun 2014 08:38pm |
Former Mississippi Department of Marine Resources director Bill Walker has been sentenced to five years in prison, the maximum penalty for the one count of conspiracy he had pleaded guilty to, during a sentencing hearing in federal court in Hattiesburg on Monday.
Walker had pleaded guilty earlier this year to using federal grant money to buy property owned by his son, and in which he also had a stake. On Monday, U-S District Judge Keith Starrett sentenced Walker to 60 months in prison and also imposed a penalty of $125,000 dollars.
Walker’s attorney William Kirksey spoke to reporters after helping the 69-year-old Walker into his car after court adjourned.
"I'm naturally disappointed in the sentnece but of course I accept what Judge Starrett says," Kirksey says. "My client stood up and did what a man would do - accepted responsibility for his acts. And now he's giong to serve his time with grace and look forward to starting his life over when he's released."
In court, Judge Starrett remarked Walker was "well-represented" in his plea bargain negotiations, since the recommended sentencing guidelines of 70 to 84 months were actually above the maximum for the one count that he had agreed with federal prosecuters he would plead to. Starrett also noted that the amount Walker has agreed to pay in restitution - nearly $573,000 - is below the loss amount in the pre-sentencing report of $1.454 million.
Walker's son Scott has pleaded guilty to the same charge of conspiracy and faces sentencing next month. Scott Walker also admitted to submitting a false invoice for $180,000 to the city of D’Iberville in connection with a $3 million state grant.
Former D’Iberville city manager Michael Janus also pleaded guilty in that case and on Monday was sentenced to 21 months in prison.
The judge said Walker and Janus could be placed in an institution close to their homes and that they would begin serving their sentences within 60 days.
Two other former DMR employees, Joseph Ziegler and Tina Shumate, are also facing federal charges for their alleged role in the corruption scandal that shook the marine agency last year. Those trials are scheduled to start later this year.
Shumate and one other DMR employee are also facing state charges. Three other former DMR employees last month pleaded guilty to state charges in connection with the DMR corruption probe.
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