Epps prison scandal defendant trials pushed back

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Insurance businessman Guy Evans and former lobbyist Teresa Malone have new trial dates for their alleged roles in the kickback-and-bribery scandal that shook the state’s corrections system in 2014.

Evans, of Jackson, and Malone, the wife of former state Rep. Bennett Malone of Carthage, are among eight individuals accused thus far of bribing or paying kickbacks to Christopher Epps, the former state corrections commissioner, to obtain and maintain contracts with the prison system.

Former state prisons chief Christopher Epps

Gabriel Austin

Former state prisons chief Christopher Epps

Federal prosecutors charged Evans and Malone in July; both were originally scheduled to go to trial this fall.

U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate rescheduled those trials to Jan. 9 for Malone and April 3 for Evans. They both recently pleaded not guilty to charges they paid Epps to receive contracts with the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Evans and Malone also are accused of mail fraud in schemes of bribe Epps, according to the indictments.

Epps pleaded guilty in February 2016 and faces sentencing later this year after the date was rescheduled several times. Prosecutors and Epps’ attorneys disagree with the financial impact of Epps’ decisions on the state.

Rankin County businessman Cecil McCrory also pleaded guilty in February to one count of bribing Epps, but his attorney has said he will withdraw the plea.

Texas businessman Mark Longoria faces an Oct. 13 sentencing date. He pleaded guilty July 25 to funneling kickbacks to Epps through McCrory’s company Investigative Research Inc.

Sam Waggoner of Carthage, formerly a lobbyist, pleaded guilty in August to a one-count bill of information that he bribed Apps to secure favorable treatment for a company offering inmate telephone services. A bill of information is a legal charge from the government without going through a grand jury and often is used when a defendant agrees to enter a guilty plea.

An Oct. 3 trial date is set for former state Sen. Irb Benjamin of Corinth. He has pleaded not guilty to a three-count charge that he bribed Epps and used the mail in the furtherance of the scheme.

Prosecutors asked Judge Wingate for a new trial date for Dr. Carl Reddix of Jackson, because of a rule requiring action within a set period of time. Former Gulf Coast Supervisor Robert Simmons, who was among the earliest to plead guilty, has not yet been sentenced for his parts in the scheme, which reportedly netted Epps more than $1.4 million in bribes and kickbacks.

Reddix was indicted in July and accused of bribing Epps to gain and maintain contracts for his inmate medical-services company. In late August, Wingate recused himself from the case and Judge Daniel Jordan was appointed to preside.

Simmons pleaded guilty in February to a complicated kickback scheme in which he paid money to Epps and a Harrison County supervisor in exchange for contracts with the state and county.

  • Otis

    State government is rotten to the core. This goes a long way in explaining why Mississippi is always ranked on the bottom.

  • Charles Pearce

    The new front doors on the federal courthouse will require extra maintenance in 2017.