Former Gulfport mayor wants guilty plea tossed out

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Former Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr wants his guilty plea for stealing FEMA funds thrown out. In papers filed Friday, Warr told the court he is actually innocent of the charge to which he pleaded guilty to stealing Hurricane Katrina recovery funds.

Warr and his wife, Laura, were both charged in the FEMA fraud case. Warr's 2009 plea agreement allowed his wife to avoid jail time.

Warr points to newly discovered evidence to support his argument to toss out the plea. The former mayor said FEMA never determined he wasn't eligible to receive the FEMA grant money and the government did not share that information with him prior to pleading guilty.

Warr said he would never had pleaded guilty if the government had not withheld that evidence.

The court filing reads in part;  "In late 2011, Congress and Homeland Security began to scrutinize the eligibility to determinations for disaster assistance benefits made by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) during Hurricane Katrina and determined that numerous errors had been made.  The government did not advise movant (Warr) prior to his guilty plea, that these eligibility determination errors had been made by FEMA."

The Warrs' battle with the feds centered on whether the couple lived in their beachfront home at the time Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  The Warrs listed that property as the family's primary residence when applying for disaster aid.  Federal prosecutors argued the Warrs were not really living there when Katrina hit.

In the latest court papers, Warr confirms what he said from the start, that the beach home "needed extensive renovations..."  and while Warr "did a substantial amount of work... the Warrs were staying in a house owned by a family member just blocks from Beach Drive..."

To support his motion, Warr also cited a statement by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General which read "Following Hurricane Katrina survivors encountered conflicting and confusing information when seeking federal disaster assistance."

Warr also contends the government violated his right of Due Process.

Copyright 2012 WLOX. All rights reserved.