Lab Results Point To Arson In Fire At Indicted Former Judge's Office

A fire that broke out last week at the Biloxi office of indicted former judge John Whitfield was arson, Biloxi Fire Chief David Roberts said Tuesday. Roberts said charred samples sent to a laboratory last week came back positive for accelerants.

"We are classifying it as an arson and it will be turned over to the police department detectives' unit for investigation,'' Roberts said.

Whitfield was indicted with four others in a federal fraud and bribery case. Michael Crosby, Whitfield's lawyer, was in court on Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

Last Monday's blaze started in a secretary's office. One room was destroyed and parts of the office had soot and water damage. Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the fire.

Crosby has said that Whitfield's office is "mission control'' for his defense of the federal case and for another lawsuit that Whitfield has filed against the Grand Casino Biloxi. Thousands of documents and computer files were stored in the office, but Crosby said the fire would not affect their case preparation.

On Monday, Whitfield was in court to hear a federal judge set a March 1 trial date and decide other motions in the case in which Whitfield is a co-defendant with Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., Diaz's ex-wife Jennifer, attorney Paul Minor and former judge Wes Teel.

Minor is alleged to have given cash and guaranteed loans to judges in exchange for favorable decisions. Minor is also charged with racketeering.

Whitfield has filed a $600 million slander and libel lawsuit against Grand Casino, claiming the casino falsely accused him of pressuring Tom Brosig, a casino executive, for money in exchange for a favorable ruling in 2000.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)