Surprise Plea In Judicial Corruption Case - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

04/26/05

Surprise Plea In Judicial Corruption Case

Sources tell WLOX News Jennifer Diaz pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion. In exchange for the plea, the government will drop bribery and fraud charges against Diaz.

In July, 2003 Jennifer Diaz, her ex-husband Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, former Judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield and former Biloxi attorney Paul Minor were all indicted.

Government prosecutors say they participated in a scheme in which judges were allegedly paid for favorable decisions. Minor and Oliver Diaz are also charged with extortion and Minor is accused of racketeering.

Sources say Jennifer Diaz's plea is not related to the case pending against the other four defendants. In fact, one of Paul Minor's attorneys says Jennifer Diaz should never have been charged in the case.

"The government's accepting a tax resolution where they used to allege bribery is a startling admission by the prosecutors of the weakness of their case against Mr. Minor and Judges Diaz, Whitfield and Teel," Attorney Abbe Lowell says.

Lowell says the government may call Jennifer Diaz to the witness stand, but Lowell says he thinks it would only be to tell what she did and not be very helpful information against the other defendants.

When she is sentenced, Jennifer Diaz faces up to five years in prison and fines.

No one from the U.S. Attorney's office would comment on Jennifer Diaz's plea.

Jennifer Diaz cannot comment because she is under a gag order.

Meanwhile, Oliver Diaz, Paul Minor, Wes Teel and John Whitfield are still set to stand trial in Jackson May 9th. A status conference on the trial will be held Tuesday morning in Judge Henry Wingate's courtroom.

byMarcia Hill

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