It took almost 12 hours, but a jury was finally selected Monday for state Sen. Charles Walker's highly anticipated trial in U.S. District Court in Augusta.
Just before 9 p.m., jurors were taken as a group to a waiting bus outside the federal courthouse, and there was indication that they might be sequestered. However, court officials had not confirmed that late Monday.
Mr. Walker, D-Augusta, has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, fraud and filing false tax returns. He was indicted on 142 counts in June 2004. The indictment accuses Mr. Walker of defrauding two Georgia hospitals, his newspaper advertisers, campaign contributors and a charity.
The 66-page indictment alleges that Mr. Walker used his powerful political position to enrich himself and his companies. Until his election defeat in 2002, Mr. Walker had risen to the top of state politics, becoming Senate majority leader and a potential candidate for governor. He regained his 22nd District Senate seat last fall.
The indictment alleges that Grady Memorial Hospital executives were led to believe that they had to employ Mr. Walker's temp agency in exchange for his help in the passage of legislation the hospital needed.
It also accuses Mr. Walker of lying about his ownership of his temp agency and the Augusta Focus newspaper to get around a Georgia law that prohibits a state politician from doing business with a state entity - in this case, the Medical College of Georgia.
Mr. Walker is also accused of defrauding advertisers by inflating the Augusta Focus' circulation from about 2,400 to 25,000 or 30,000. Stores such as Kmart and Best Buy paid for thousands of inserts that were never used, the indictment alleges.
The last alleged scheme, according to the indictment, involved skimming the majority of profits from the CSRA Classic, an annual charity college football game. Mr. Walker is accused of filing false income tax returns for himself and for the charity event.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In court Monday:
- A jury was selected in almost 12 hours for Sen. Charles Walker's federal trial.
- Potential jurors were called in from all over the 43-county U.S. Courts Southern District - as far away as Vidalia and Hazelhurst.
- Proceedings continue at 10 a.m. today in U.S. District Court in Augusta.
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