Judge takes Classic fund from board

The three-quarters of a million dollars former state Sen. Charles Walker had to repay to the charity he co-founded is now out of the hands of the CSRA Classic's board of directors.


U.S. District Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. ruled that the CSRA Classic's written plan for using the money was submitted too late.

In place of the CSRA Classic's board, Judge Bowen appointed a three-member commission to make recommendations about how the restitution money should be used.

Augusta attorney Patrick Rice, one of the community leaders drafted for the job, said the commission's starting premise is to put the money to use as the CSRA Classic's intended goals state: college scholarships and development programs for underprivileged children in the community.

Mr. Rice said the commission will examine established groups and organizations with the proven ability to accomplish such goals and the ability to provide accountability.

In a December 2005 order and again on Sept. 12, Judge Bowen reiterated what he said at Mr. Walker's sentencing: Because of the CSRA Classic board's lack of oversight of Mr. Walker's use of the charity's funds, the judge insisted on a written plan for the restitution. He also required proof that CSRA Classic was properly registered as a charity with the Georgia secretary of state.

According to state and federal records, the CSRA Classic's charity registration expired in December 2005, and the charity has not filed charitable federal income tax returns since 2004.

Judge Bowen's deadline for the CSRA Classic board passed, and on Oct. 8 he signed an order that severed the board's ability to collect the restitution, now at $775,198 because of interest payments. That same day attorney Benjamin Allen filed a proposal on behalf of the CSRA Classic.

The board proposed setting aside $175,000 for college scholarships and $100,000 for organizations such as the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, the city's recreation youth scholarship fund and 100 Black Men of Augusta.

The rest, under the board's proposal, would remain with the CSRA Classic to negotiate a contract with schools to hold the annual Classic football game for the next three years.

U.S. Attorney Edmund A. Booth Jr. objected to the late proposal and asked the judge to strike it. In light of testimony by board members during Mr. Walker's trial, the top federal prosecutor for the Southern District questioned the board's independence from Mr. Walker.

On Friday, Judge Bowen signed the order that gave his commission a Dec. 5 deadline to file its recommendations.

Although Mr. Walker was ordered to pay restitution in late 2005, it was held in trust until recently, when Mr. Walker lost his final appeals. He also had to pay interest on the restitution.

Mr. Walker, who served in the Georgia House and Senate for more than 20 years, was once one of the most powerful political leaders in Georgia. The Senate majority leader lost his seat in 2002 but regained it in 2004 while he was under federal indictment.

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

The Back Story: Charles Walker and CSRA Classic

Former state Sen. Charles Walker was convicted in 2005 in federal court of 127 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and filing false charity tax returns. He was accused of running various schemes to defraud two national companies that advertised in his newspaper, campaign contributors, two public hospitals and contributors to the charity he co-founded in 1993, the CSRA Classic. The CSRA Classic annual charity football event was designed to raise money for scholarships. Mr. Walker was convicted of crimes connected to his personal use of the charity funds. He was ordered to repay all of his victims, including the CSRA Classic. Mr. Walker, who turned 61 on Saturday, is serving a 10-year prison sentence. He is scheduled for release in September 2014.