Judge Denies Bid To Drop Charges In Judicial Bribery Case

The federal judicial bribery case involving a Mississippi Supreme Court justice, his ex-wife and a prominent Gulf Coast lawyer will continue to trial, a judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate said attorneys who wanted the charges dismissed were trying to argue their case. He said the arguments should occur at trial, not during a motions hearing.

Wingate also heard several lesser motions in the case that has rocked the state's judicial system. Attorney Paul Minor and Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., along with Diaz' ex-wife Jennifer and former judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield, are accused of participating in a scheme in which Minor allegedly provided cash, loans and gifts to the judges in exchange for favorable decisions.

The five originally were indicted last summer. A new indictment was filed by federal prosecutors in February that charged Diaz and Minor with extortion, besides the fraud and bribery allegations. The five, who have pleaded innocent, face an Aug. 16 trial.

The new indictment added charges that Minor tried to extort money for Diaz from two attorneys whose case was before the Supreme Court.

In its response to the motions, the government said the new indictment follows the language in the statutes.

Defense attorneys have argued that the government has not supported its allegations that Diaz knew anything about Minor's activities or that Jennifer Diaz had anything to do with the cases before the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Minor allegedly told the attorneys that Diaz had swung the Supreme Court's vote in favor of their client, and then asked for $20,000 for Diaz while the court considered a motion to rehear the case, according to the indictment.

The indictment also expanded the dates of Minor's alleged involvement with Diaz to 1994, when Diaz was on the Court of Appeals.

Attorneys for the Diazes and Minor also have argued the government has failed to provide support for its allegations that the three did anything wrong or violated any federal law.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)