Five DMR defendants brought to court in shackles, released on bond

Indictees leaving FBI office in handcuffs

calee@sunherald.comNovember 8, 2013 

GULFPORT -- Five defendants in the federal DMR investigation shambled into U.S. District Court on Friday morning in handcuffs and leg chains.

Former DMR Executive Director Bill Walker, his son Scott Walker, former D'Iberville City Manager Michael Janus and former DMR managers Joe Ziegler and Tina Shumate all plan to plead not guilty when they return to court Wednesday for arraignment, their attorneys said.

On Friday, Magistrate Judge Robert H. Walker released all five on unsecured bonds after he read them their rights, took the name of each defendant's attorney, and reviewed the court rules.

Judge Walker also reviewed the charges and maximum sentences for each defendant, should they be found guilty. Under federal sentencing guidelines, maximum sentences are generally much higher than actual time served for defendants without criminal records.

In one case, Bill and Scott Walker each face up to 75 years on five counts: conspiracy to defraud the federal government, fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and two counts of mail fraud. Ziegler, former DMR chief of staff, faces up to 60 years on three charges: one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and two counts of mail fraud. Shumate, former director of coastal resource management and planning, faces up to 15 years on one charge of conspiracy and one of fraud.

The charges against the Scott and Bill Walker and Shumate stem from a land transaction involving property the father and son had an interest in. Shumate persuaded a nonprofit to buy with money supplied by DMR, the indictment says.

The charges against Scott and Bill Walker and Ziegler involve a private founda

tion Bill Walker founded in 2004, about two years after he became DMR director. The indictment alleges the three funneled to the foundation money intended for the state, then used the money to enrich themselves or others.

Judge Walker also reviewed with Scott Walker and Michael Janus charges in a separate indictment filed against them. The charges involve a $180,000 consulting fee Janus, as D'Iberville's city manager, allegedly arranged for Scott Walker.

The two are each charged with five crimes in that case, facing up to 45 years each in prison if convicted. The charges against them are conspiracy to defraud the federal government, fraud, bribery and two counts of money laundering. Scott Walker is charged with bribing Janus, and Janus is accused of accepting the bribes.

Both Scott Walker and Janus smiled at friends or family members in the gallery, but the other three defendants looked somber throughout the hearing.

The hearing lasted about 40 minutes. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Rushing said he did not object to release of the five on signature bonds.

At one point, the defendants stood in a line in the courtroom, flanked by their attorneys. All wore dark suits. Bill Walker is represented by William Kirksey of Jackson; Scott Walker by Arthur Madden of Mobile; Michael Janus by Brad Pigott of Jackson, a former U.S. attorney; Joe Ziegler by Joe Sam Owen of Gulfport; and Tina Shumate by Tim Holleman of Gulfport.

Pigott and Kirksey sent other attorneys to represent their clients Friday because they were unable to be in Gulfport.

After the hearing was concluded, the U.S. Marshals Service escorted the defendants to the third floor, where those with passports had to surrender them to probation officers.

Before they appeared in court Friday, the defendants had to go to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's office in Gulfport to be processed.

They were led out in handcuffs for their trip to the federal courthouse, only a short distance away.

Attorney Owen was unhappy to see the defendants hauled into court in chains.

"You've got to be kidding?" Owen said to a representative of the Marshals Service. "Are you going to keep them cuffed in the courtroom?"

She replied, "Everybody that's in our custody remains in restraints."

In his experience, Owen told her, that is not the case.

Staff photographer John Fitzhugh and web producer Justin Mitchell contributed to this report.

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