2 defendants want separate trials in MDMR case

The Associated PressDecember 5, 2013 

— The former chief of staff at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources wants to be tried separately from other defendants in a federal corruption case related to the use of public money.

Joseph Zeigler Jr. made the request in a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Gulfport. Another former MDMR employee, Sheila "Tina" Shumate, had already made a similar request.

Former MDMR director Bill Walker and his son, Scott Walker, also face charges in the case.

The charges were the culmination of a lengthy investigation that had already resulted in a shake-up in the leadership of the agency. Bill Walker was fired from MDMR in January, after leading the agency since 2002.

The indictment says the Walkers and Shumate, the former director of the agency's coastal impact assistance program, conspired to use MDMR's money to buy land in which the Walkers had a financial interest and also embezzled $210,000.

The Walkers and Zeigler are charged with diverting MDMR money into the private bank account of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Foundation, a private foundation created by Bill Walker in 2004 that purported to support the agency. The indictment says they used the money to "gain personal enrichment."

Scott Walker and Michael Janus, the former city manager for D'Iberville, are charged in a separate case with fraudulently using $180,000 in that city's money.

They all have pleaded not guilty.

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