Former state Sen. Charles W. Walker is being transferred from a federal prison in Estill, S.C., a Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman said Tuesday.
The bureau did not say where Walker is being transferred and won’t until the transfer is complete because it would pose a safety risk.
Walker, 66, was convicted of 127 felony charges related to various schemes in 2005. He paid more than $1 million in restitution, fines and court fees.
A federal jury convicted Walker of charges relating to the gross inflation of his newspaper’s circulation, which cheated two advertisers; using his political influence and lying about his ownership of his personnel company to obtain government contracts at two public hospitals; and helping himself to money raised by the charity he co-founded, the CSRA Classic football event.
Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said Walker still has a release date of Sept. 26, 2014, and will remain in custody until then, but he is eligible for a community-based program, which includes options such as a halfway house and home confinement.
Augusta Commission member Bill Fennoy, who managed a convenience store for Walker, said he was told by a reliable source who’s “99 percent” certain that the former state senator is being released to a halfway house in Columbia.
“It’s the same type transitional center that the federal government is trying to get started in Richmond County that he’s in today,” said Fennoy, who has worked in the prison system transition centers for the health department. “He will have to work and abide by the rules of the transitional center until he’s fully released. A portion of earnings go toward room and board at transitional center. Outstanding fines or fees that he has incurred, a portion of his earnings, will go toward that. A portion of his earnings he will have to save.”
He said many in the Augusta community will be happy to hear the news about Walker.
“A lot of people feel that he was unjustly incarcerated,” Fennoy said. “Personally, I don’t see where he did anything wrong. I was not at the trial; the federal government may be privy to information I don’t have, but I don’t personally feel like he did anything wrong.
“The community will be glad to see when he’s permanently released and glad to see him reunited with his family and to get on with his life.”
In the federal court system, parole has been abolished but a prisoner may be released early when he is within one year of completing his sentence.
After Walker completes his sentence, he will begin a three-year period of supervised release, remaining under the federal court’s control.
Butch Gallop, a relative and protege of Walker’s, called his release to a halfway house “a wonderful thing.”
“It’s going to be a wonderful thing for me personally that he’s out,” said Gallop, a consultant for a company that manages the city’s construction projects. “One, he’s family. That’s important to me: family. He is to me a hell of a man, and he deserves a second chance just like everyone else. He’s been great to this community for a long time. He’s been great for the state.”
In 1996, Walker became one of Georgia’s most powerful politicians when his peers chose him to be the Senate majority leader. Although he lost his Senate seat in 2002, Walker’s popularity continued in the community and he was able to regain the seat in 2004 – after he was indicted on the federal charges.
Any future political run Walker might contemplate will be delayed a decade.
A state law that went into effect in 1991 prohibits convicted felons from holding political office until they have their civil rights restored and 10 years have passed without further criminal conviction.
Staff Writer Sandy Hodson contributed to this article.