HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - Former D'Iberville City Manager Michael Janus and former Department of Marine Resources Director Bill Walker are waiting to hear where they'll serve their prison time. Both were sentenced on Monday in federal court in Hattiesburg after pleading guilty in separate fraud related cases. Janus was sentenced to 21 months and Walker received 60 months.
On Tuesday, the judge released letters of support from both men's families, friends and colleagues which he says he weighed in making his decisions. The letters come from their wives, their neighbors and their friends. Bill Walker received 14 letters of support. Seven others wrote poignant words for their friend Michael Janus. Each letter painted a picture of compassionate and moral men who dedicated their lives to this community.
Larry Gartman, a neighbor of Bill Walker, wrote, "Billy has lived a long worthy life. Then in a snapshot, he has been fired, humiliated and publicity disgraced. That's a lot for a good man who has had 42 years of distinguished service at the local, regional, and state level. Again, I have read about the investigations, but I still trust Billy."
"Dr. Bill Walker is a good man that made a horrible mistake that he must now pay for," said John McKay, a friend of Walker. "He will pay forever by the loss of his good name. This will affect the Walker family forever. I ask that you consider Bill Walker's life works and the civic and professional good he has done while deciding his final punishment."
William Lee Jr., a friend and former Superintendent of the Jackson County School District said, "Through this ordeal, I have stood fast that I believe he would do no intentional wrong, regardless of how small or great the gain. I am very proud to call him a friend."
Bill Walker's wife Sharon Walker wrote, "Very simply, I believe Bill has given the citizens of the MS Gulf Coast and this region everything he is and now, due to this regrettable situation in which we find ourselves, he has become on some level a prisoner in his own mind....as a result of the stress which has been created by the media and does not deserve any additional punishments being imposed on him."
William Perrett said, "Dr. Walker was fired from his position at DMR in January 2013 and has been relentlessly ridiculed and humiliated publicly by the media since that time. I can only assume his legal expenses have been high, and his health has seriously deteriorated (weight loss, high blood pressure, strokes resulting in some memory loss.)."
Michael Janus also had letters of support. His wife Nathalie talked about the financial and emotional strain suffered by herself and the couple's two daughters.
"The man that I married has tremendous faith and loves his family more than life itself. We have already suffered tremendously over the past year due to his indictment and loss of his job. Everyday life continues to be a heavy burden on the family since we are struggling to make ends meet on one income. My family unit as I know it is all that I have left and even that is in jeopardy due to the current situation," said Nathalie.
A friend, Penny Payne said, "We all make mistakes, and I respectfully request that when you pass sentencing on him, please be lenient. His wife and two small children are depending on him, and what he has been through these past months has been torturous for him and his family. I ask that you give him a chance to pay restitution outside of a jail cell so that he will be able to make things right as well as continue to care for his family. Michael has taken responsibility for his actions, and I know that he will spend the rest of his life proving to everyone that he is the person that we all know and love."
Janus is a member of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Biloxi. Father Patrick Mockler wrote a letter to the court.
"Mr. Janus has always been a willing helping hand. At Fatima Parish, he has given of himself as a volunteer in the cafeteria when his girls were attending Fatima Elementary School," wrote Mockler. "He was a volunteer at the Parish Bazaar, year after year. He has always been an advocate for others as a public servant in his political career as well as more than generous in his help for needy individuals in the parish."
Judge Starrett said he read all the letters but in the end felt the sentences needed to serve as a deterrent. Bill Walker received five years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government. Michael Janus will serve 21 months for fraud. They report to prison sometime in the next 60 days.