|Former Mississippi State Court Judge Whitfield enters federal Court|
A federal judge on Wednesday refused to throw out the convictions of imprisoned ex-attorney Paul Minor and two former judges. U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate heard arguments on the defense motions but said if there were an error in the judicial bribery trial, it was harmless.
"The jury found facts establishing guilt," Wingate said.
|The defendants (l to r), Minor, Whitfield and Teel prior to convictions|
Teel was sentenced to nearly six years in the case. Whitfield was sentenced to more than nine years.
Wingate heard pleas from attorneys for both that the two ailing former jurists be sentenced to time served. All three have served about 42 months of their sentences.
Wingate made no ruling Wednesday and recessed court until 10 a.m. today at which time he'll hear from Minor's attorneys.
Attorneys for the former judges said they were in poor health. Teel had suffered a heart attack shortly after entering prison in December 2007 and had heart surgery in January 2008.
Whitfield has Crohn's disease. There is no cure, and the causes are unknown. With the disease, the immune system goes awry, causing inflammation in the intestinal wall. The disease is controlled by drug treatments.
"I'm regretful," Teel told Wingate. "I didn't mean for any of this to happen. I really would like to go home."
Whitfield said he also was remorseful for what led to his conviction. "Had I followed my code of ethics ... I wouldn't be before you today. I apologize for the stain I have placed on the judiciary," he said.
The attorneys said both men have jobs waiting for them if they are released and have families who need them. The government, however, asked for the maximum sentence for all three. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dave Fulcher told Wingate that following the 2006 federal sentencing guidelines would result in each defendant getting longer prison terms.
[AUSA] Fulcher said the crimes were serious and the government would be consistent in asking for the longest sentences available. "All these defendants put justice (up) for sale," he said. Fulcher said the pleas for leniency "do not overwhelm the facts of this case."
A main issue raised by the defense is that the case was not built on bribery, and was instead based on matters like concealment. The defense contends recent court rulings narrow the scope of honest services fraud and concealment no longer applies.
Prosecutors said concealment was just an element of a bribery scheme. They say Minor orchestrated a complicated scheme in which he guaranteed loans for the judges, then used cash and third parties to pay off the loans. The judges then ruled in his favor in civil cases[ . . . ]
The [now, unconstitutional] law sa[id was] a crime for a public official to deprive citizens of honest services while in office[.]
There, you go, some crooked judges and lawyers living the high life at their regional Club Fed. They put justice "up for sale," of course that never should be allowed in our courts.