Defendants Ease Into Life After The Courtroom - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

08/15/05

Defendants Ease Into Life After The Courtroom

Pointing to stacks of papers, former Chancery Judge Wes Teel says, "That's the mail, that's the bills and that's the court notices."  While Teel spent the last three months in a courtroom fighting bribery and fraud charges, it was business as usual at his Gulfport law office. Teel says he's happy to be right back in the middle of it. "Not having to look at the four walls of a motel. I've been to summer camp before but not a summer camp like that."

 Teel says the trial was a terrible ordeal. "For someone's family, it's excruciating suffering and that's the part that's really the worst for anybody. The family just has to go through so much pain, agony, heartache and tears."  Teel says he and his co-defendants relied on each other and faith to get them through each day. Framed prayers and Biblical passages sit on the corner of his desk. "You're going to have troubles in life but if you don't have your faith to fall back on you will be crushed. If you have that faith and belief in the Lord you have that cushion, you have that assurance that eventually you'll get through it."

 The government hasn't decided if it will pursue charges against Teel. He says he can't dwell on that. If it happens he says he'll deal with it. "I have no control. I don't have any hatred or hard feelings toward anybody. I just wanna go on with my life."

 Meanwhile, the Commission on Judicial Performance will petition the Mississippi Supreme Court to end the suspension of Teel's co-defendant, Justice Oliver Diaz. A federal jury acquitted Diaz Friday of bribery and fraud charges. Diaz voluntarily stepped down from the high court while the charges were pending, and a special tribunal made up of judges later suspended him.

Judicial commission director Brant Brantley says the same tribunal will have to reinstate Diaz. Brantley says he does not know how quickly the tribunal will meet to do that.

Marcia Hill

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