Walker, Williams return to Estill

State legislators-turned-federal convicts Charles Walker and Robin Williams have returned to their assigned prison in Estill, S.C., after a monthlong stay in Mississippi.


Both men were at the Lafayette County Jail in Oxford from July 28 to Sept. 2, according to the Lafayette County Sheriff's Department. The jail holds federal inmates during trials, and the U.S. attorney there recently finished a high-profile corruption case involving illegal contributions to a former Mississippi governor by the Georgia-based builders of a beef processing plant.

The defendants pleaded guilty in mid-August without going to trial. The prosecutor's office won't say whether the pair from Augusta had been scheduled to testify. Defense attorneys in the case said Mr. Williams was a potential witness, but they were unsure about Mr. Walker.

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons had both listed as under a "federal writ," meaning federal authorities moved them for court appearances. According to Mr. Williams' attorney, Jack Long, inmates can get their sentences reduced in return for cooperation, but he wasn't aware of the circumstances because defense lawyers usually aren't involved in negotiations.

Mr. Walker and Mr. Williams have been back at Estill since Friday, a prisons spokeswoman said.

Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney Eddie Booth, whose office prosecuted Mr. Williams and Mr. Walker in 2005, said he doesn't know which case or cases they were involved in. If a prosecutor wants to use a prisoner as a witness, he doesn't have to confer with the convicting prosecutor, Mr. Booth said.

John Alexander, the spokesman for Oxford-based U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee, wouldn't comment.

While the prisoners were in Oxford last month, Mr. Greenlee's office was pursuing a case against executives with Smyrna, Ga.-based The Facility Group, accused of illegally contributing to former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's 2003 re-election bid, which he lost.

The Facility Group managed construction of the failed Mississippi Beef Processors LLC cattle plant, which closed three months after it opened in 2004, costing 400 jobs and sticking state taxpayers with $55 million in state-backed loans.

Mr. Long said he didn't know what Mr. Williams could offer in that case.

"I've never heard of the Smyrna group and never heard of any business involving livestock or cattle," the attorney said.

Facility Group Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Moultrie and Chief Operating Officer Nixon Cawood Jr. pleaded guilty to giving the former governor a $25,000 "gratuity." Mr. Moultrie and others raised $70,000 for him, but when problems arose with the plant, he and Mr. Cawood discussed giving $25,000 more to influence and reward Mr. Musgrove "should his assistance be needed on the potential problems with the project," according to court documents.

At one fundraiser, Mr. Moultrie collected about $50,000, with employees donating $1,000 to attend, then being reimbursed with bonuses.

Charles Morehead, the executive vice president of Facility Group, pleaded guilty to withholding information during the investigation.

The prosecution of the three has been criticized as politically motivated. Mr. Musgrove, who has not been charged, is running against Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker for the Senate seat vacated by Republican Trent Lott.

Mr. Greenlee, nominated for his prosecutor's post by President Bush, made a $200 donation to Mr. Wicker in 2002.

This isn't the first time Mr. Williams has come close to taking the stand in a corruption case. In 2006, he was moved from Estill to a county jail outside Montgomery, Ala., during the trial of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who was convicted without Mr. Williams testifying.

Motivations in that case have also been questioned. In July, a House panel voted to hold former presidential adviser Karl Rove in contempt of Congress after he didn't appear at a hearing on allegations of White House influence over the Justice Department, including whether Mr. Rove encouraged prosecutions against Democrats such as Mr. Siegelman.

A former Republican Georgia state representative, Mr. Williams, 46, was convicted of 17 charges of conspiracy, bribery, theft, health care fraud and money laundering involving schemes that bilked more than $2 million from the Community Mental Health Center of East Central Georgia.

A former Democratic state Senate majority leader, Mr. Walker, 60, was convicted of 127 felony charges, including using his clout and political position to cheat campaign contributors, two hospitals, advertisers in his Augusta Focus newspaper and the CSRA Classic charity event he founded.

Both men are serving 10-year sentences and are scheduled for release in 2014.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.