As John Whitfield watched from across the street, Biloxi fire investigators, with help from state and federal agents, went through the blackened remains of his office. The predawn flames were contained to one room, but there is smoke and water damage throughout the building.
"It's still under investigation. We're still taking samples and trying to determine the cause. They're trying to determine if there was any accelerants or anything like that used and exactly how the fire started," Biloxi Fire Chief David Roberts said.
But after hiring their own private investigator, Whitfield's attorney Michael Crosby says they know how the fire started.
"He was in there for about 15 minutes and then they came out and... the indication is at this time it's arson. Okay, so our investigator revealed to me certain facts and I cannot divulge what those facts are. The police know what they are, but for investigative reasons that might impair their investigation, we can't reveal that," Crosby said.
Whitfield's office was a store room for the huge number of legal documents and records being used in two cases: his defense against federal bribery and fraud charges, and in his $600 million libel and slander suit filed against the Grand Casino last week.
"This fire will be a major inconvenience on what we're doing, but it will not impair us. We have not lost anything that we cannot recover. We can get it through my sources, my office or from the sources where we orginally obtained these documents," Crosby said.
Chief David Roberts would not comment on Crosby's allegations that the fire was arson.