Walker can try for last appeal

File/Staff
Charles Walker was convicted in 2005 for mail fraud, tax crimes and conspiracy.

Former state Sen. Charles Walker has until Friday to make a final plea to the U.S. Supreme Court to consider his case.

Mr. Walker, the highest-ranking Georgia politician ever prosecuted and sentenced to prison, lost his appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and in March the Supreme Court rejected Mr. Walker's petition to hear his case.

The last step of his direct appeal is asking the Supreme Court to reconsider.

If Mr. Walker chooses not to ask for reconsideration or the court declines, he will have to pay nearly $700,000 in restitution to the victims of his crimes.

When U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. sentenced Mr. Walker to 121 months in prison in November 2005, he allowed Mr. Walker to delay paying restitution until his appeal was completed.

Judge Bowen agreed with Mr. Walker's defense team that if he was successful on appeal, it would be difficult if not impossible to get the money back.

Mr. Walker has paid $279,000 in fines and assessments for the 127 counts of mail fraud, conspiracy and tax crimes, but Judge Bowen allowed him to pledge 35 securities in lieu of restitution.

U.S. District Attorney Edmund A. Booth Jr. said last week that the judge's order requires Mr. Walker to pay restitution immediately after his appeal is completed or the securities will be surrendered.

The case doesn't end there, however. In 2005, Judge Bowen said he wanted to know a lot more about one of the victims, the CSRA Classic, before turning over more than $400,000 to the charity organization Mr. Walker co-founded more than a decade ago.

Then, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richards Goolsby suggested the restitution for the CSRA Classic should be turned over to Paine College and Augusta State University for their scholarship programs.

"The money ought to go to the kids," Mr. Goolsby said.

Defense attorney Don Samuels countered that restitution couldn't be given to someone who isn't a victim.

The CSRA Classic was about a lot more than just scholarships, Mr. Samuels said. It included a youth leadership program, and the major fundraising event of the year -- a football game between historically black colleges at Lucy C. Laney Comprehensive High School -- is a tradition that brings a community together, Mr. Samuels said.

But Judge Bowen said he wasn't inclined to give the money back to an organization whose scholarships went mostly to the children of influential members of the community.

During Mr. Walker's trial in May 2005, the prosecution presented evidence that showed the student awarded the largest scholarship is the son of former Richmond County school Superintendent Charles Larke.

Testimony also revealed that Mr. Walker helped himself to cash collected at the CSRA Classic event.

The jury also convicted Mr. Walker of crimes related to defrauding advertisers in his newspaper by grossly exaggerating circulation numbers.

The jury also believed Mr. Walker used his political influence and hid his ownership of a temp service business to gain contracts with two public hospitals, and that he funneled campaign funds through the Augusta Focus newspaper and into his own pocket.

Mr. Walker, 60, is housed at the federal prison in Estill, S.C. According to the federal Bureau of Prisons, his release date is Sept. 26, 2014.

Mr. Walker, born in Burke County to a sharecropper's son, spent 20 years in the state House and Senate and rose to the political height of Senate majority leader.

By 1999, his holding company, The Walker Group, grossed more than $20 million and employed 1,200 people.

After Mr. Walker temporarily lost his Senate seat in 2002, federal agents began to focus on his various business dealings. He was indicted in June 2004. While under indictment, he was re-elected to the Senate.

Less than an hour after his conviction in Augusta's federal courthouse, Gov. Sonny Perdue stripped Mr. Walker of his seat.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

MORE REPRESENTATION

A half-dozen attorneys, some of the top criminal defense lawyers in Georgia, have represented Charles W. Walker since his 2004 indictment. The latest addition is Alan M. Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor and prolific writer of books and articles for magazines and newspapers. He is frequently interviewed by national media groups as an expert on criminal law and civil liberties.

If the U.S. Supreme Court further rejects Mr. Walker's plea to hear his appeal, the only appellate option left is a federal habeas petition, a lower-level appeals process challenging the legality of his incarceration.