U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett has agreed to delay the criminal trial of former DMR manager Tina Shumate until Sept. 22.
Shumate was scheduled to be tried June 9 on charges of fraud and conspiracy to defraud the government. She asked for more time to prepare her defense because investigators seized personal items from her home, including computers, during a January 2013 search. Her attorney, Tim Holleman of Gulfport, told the court he learned April 29 he would need a court order to retrieve the items for trial preparation. The U.S. Attorney's Office did not object to the delay.
Shumate resigned as head of DMR's Coastal Resource Management and Planning office less than two weeks after her home was searched. She has denied any wrongdoing.
Two former DMR employees who worked for Shumate said in state court Wednesday she tried to tell them what they should say to investigators during the DMR probe, and asked them to manufacture receipts. One of her former employees, Leslie Gollott, pleaded guilty to embezzlement, receiving two years under house arrest. A second employee, Susan Perkins, received two years' probation for felony false pretense.
Both admitted they were reimbursed for travel expenses they did not incur. Gollott also repaid $30,305 in misappropriated funds.
Shumate is scheduled for trial in October in Circuit Court on state charges of embezzlement and witness tampering, but she has requested the trial be moved because of pretrial publicity.
In the federal case, three others were charged along with Shumate: Former DMR executive director Bill Walker and his son, private consultant Scott Walker, and former DMR Chief of Staff Joe Ziegler.
Both Bill and Scott Walker have pleaded guilty. They admitted they conspired with Shumate to spend $210,000 in federal money on Scott Walker's waterfront lot in Jackson County, although the money was intended for other purposes.
Ziegler, who also maintains his innocence, was charged in the same indictment in a separate conspiracy that allegedly involved the Walkers. The government dropped all other charges against the Walkers in exchange for their pleas. Scott Walker also pleaded guilty to fraud in a second federal case that involves former D'Iberville City Manager Michael Janus.
More trial dates ahead
Ziegler is scheduled for trial Aug. 11 in Hattiesburg. Starrett has agreed to try Shumate's case at the federal courthouse in Gulfport.
Bill Walker and Scott Walker are scheduled to be sentenced at 2 p.m. June 16 in Hattiesburg, and Janus, who also pleaded guilty to fraud, is supposed to be sentenced at 1 p.m. the same day.
Both Janus and Scott Walker admit Janus, while he was city manager, arranged a $180,000 consulting fee for Scott Walker that he did not earn. Half the money went to a business Janus and Scott Walker owned.