By Othor Cain

Contributing Writer



Former Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps appeared again in federal court Monday before Judge Henry T. Wingate to learn his fate — what he learned — was that he would have to wait.

Wingate delayed sentencing Epps until July 18 because of bombshells dropped by the prosecution.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca shared in court that his team has discovered nearly 16 additional contracts connected to the MDOC kickback-bribery scandal that took Epps down in 2014.

The new contract discoveries could increase the gross value to $800 million from the initial $300 million the government presented at the onset of indictments against Epps, claiming that he could have possibly tainted them and received substantial monetary payments.

In asking for more time from the courts, LaMarca argued that 15-16 CEOs and other associates connected to the new discoveries would need to be subpoenaed and interviewed. He also said to Wingate that “it was up to the courts to determine the net-value of the contracts and not the gross amounts,” when determining prison time under sentencing guidelines.

John Colette of Jackson, the attorney representing Epps, said prosecuters are planning to recommend a sentence below federal guidelines to Wingate based on Epps’ “substantial” cooperation.

Epps and Rankin County businessman Cecil McCrory, a former legislator, were arrested in August 2014 on multiple counts that they conspired for McCrory to get MDOC contracts, while providing Epps with kickbacks.

Epps, who originally was indicted on 40 counts of bribery, money laundering, conspiracy and tax charges, plead guilty to two of those charges, which were felony bribery charges. McCrory was originally indicted on 15 counts.

McCrory’s attorney Carlos Tanner, who is based in Jackson, shocked the court when he provided testimony that he would file a motion with the court, asking for a withdrawal of the guilty plea of which McCrory originally pleaded. “My client is factually innocent of what he pleaded guilty to,” Tanner said. “I came aboard in the middle of this case and based on what I’ve seen, I never would have recommended that he plead guilty.”

Tanner called the $800 million “preposterous” and said he was still reviewing more than 70 CDs presented by the state.

Meanwhile, Wingate set a June 9 hearing date for prosecutors to present their new findings to the court. McCrory was set to be sentenced June 9 as well, but Tanner told Wingate new discoveries at the hearing on that date could affect his client’s defense.

As it stands now, Epps could face up to 23 years in prison and a $750,000 fine; McCrory, 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

  1. Pancho says:

    One hopes that the executives who provided those bribes, which had to be from the for-profit prison operators, MTC, CCA, Cornell and GEO Group, will be brought to answer for their crimes. McCrory’s “fee” for greasing the skids for their contracts, which eliminated any actual competition that might have protected the taxpayers, was $12,000 a month. We know that Epps collected $2 million in bribes, and those contracts were the only big enough pots to provide that kind of dough. The money McCrory got for his “consulting,” even if he used every last cent of it to pay off Epps, would not have come remotely close to that amount. So, when will the “big guys” be indicted, or has the US Attorney screwed around so long with this that the statute of limitations will enable some of these crooks to get off the hook? His concern about precisely quantifying the amount this corruption cost the state of Mississippi, whether it was $300,000 or $800,000 or $2 million, as has variously been reported, is somewhat inconsequential. We know that McCrory and Epps and their co-conspirators, Simmons, Benjamin, Waggoner, etc., stole a prodigious amount of money. They need to do time for those massive thefts, and there is no real reason to seek precision and in so doing, to let the guilty go free.

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