GULFPORT -- U.S. District Court Judge Keith Starrett will preside over the public corruption trials of former DMR executive director Bill Walker, his son Scott Walker and three others, all of whom pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning to multiple charges.
Magistrate Judge Robert H. Walker tentatively set a Dec. 16 trial date, but defense attorneys indicated they will seek continuances. Scott Walker's attorney, Arthur Madden of Mobile, said the December date seems "unrealistic."
The charges involve two distinct cases that will be tried separately. The order of the trials has not been determined.
Walker indicated that Starrett, who is based in Hattiesburg, will try the cases in Gulfport.
In one case, Bill and Scott Walker are charged with five crimes: one count each of conspiracy to defraud the federal government, fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and two counts each of mail fraud. Joe Ziegler, former DMR chief of staff, faces one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and two counts of mail fraud. Tina Shumate, former DMR director of coastal resource management and planning, is charged with one count each of conspiracy to defraud the federal government and fraud.
The charges against the Walkers and Shumate stem from a land transaction involving property the father and son had an interest in. Shumate persuaded a nonprofit to buy the land with money supplied by DMR, the indictment says.
The charges against the Walkers and Ziegler involve a private foundation Bill Walker founded in 2004, about two years after he became DMR director. The indictment alleges the three funneled money intended for the
state to Bill Walker's foundation, then used the money to enrich themselves or others.
In a second case, Scott Walker and Michael Janus, former D'Iberville city manager, each face five charges: conspiracy to defraud the federal government, fraud, bribery and two counts of money laundering.
The charges involve a $180,000 consulting fee Janus, as D'Iberville's city manager, allegedly arranged for Scott Walker.