BILOXI -- Scott Walker, freed Monday after 475 days in federal custody, says he never committed a crime, but learned a major life lesson from his time in prison.
"Put your family first," said Walker, 36, who has a wife and two young sons. "Make your life your family, where I might have made my career my priority before."
He blames former Gov. Haley Barbour, a Coast mayor and two Coast attorneys for the time he served at a federal prison camp in Pensacola, Fla. He didn't name Barbour, but was quick to say the "former governor" was unwilling to speak up, which would have saved him. Walker did not want to name the attorneys or mayor, either.
Walker was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to fraud and conspiracy. The fraud conviction involved a $180,000 finder's fee he received in 2011 on a $3 million grant his consulting company supposedly landed for the city of D'Iberville. He split the fee with Michael Janus, at the time a business partner and D'Iberville's city manager.
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In pleading guilty, both Walker and Janus acknowledged Walker did not earn the finder's fee. Walker now says he put in the work and earned the fee.
"If a former governor and two Coast attorneys had told the truth," Walker said, "I never would have gone to federal prison. The former governor knows I did the work."
Walker added: "I'll say this: The government said I didn't do the work to earn the money in D'Iberville. Period. Well, the money didn't land on the steps of city hall by itself."
Barbour, reached at his law office in Jackson, had no recollection of the grant. He made some calls to check with his staff, then said: "I have no recollection of ever talking to him about this. And nobody on my staff who worked on it believes I talked to Scott Walker about it. I don't understand what I could have done to help him."
Walker said he is working on a book with New York publishers who approached him. Before settling on the Coast, Walker worked as a legislative aide to former Sen. Trent Lott, then in the office of legislative affairs in the West Wing of the White House.
"It is an interesting story to talk about my time at the Bush White House and then the path to federal prison camp," he said. "We never got to tell our side of the story. The true story will come out. I think it will be interesting to people about how all this transpired."
About Bill Walker
In addition to the fraud conviction, Walker pleaded guilty to conspiracy over $210,000 in federal money the Department of Marine Resources supplied to the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain. With the money, the land trust bought a waterfront lot in Ocean Springs from Scott Walker.
Bill Walker, Scott Walker's father and then executive director of DMR, is serving five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to the same crime. Bill Walker's sentence was longer because he was in a position of public trust.
Scott Walker said he actually lost $60,000 on the land deal, which was also in 2011. He said that he -- not his father -- did all the legwork for the sale. He said both the land trust and its director, Judy Steckler, were in favor of the purchase.
"It was a great property for the land trust," Scott Walker said. "If there was something wrong with that, I believe Judy Steckler or the board would have told me."
Scott Walker said he will see his father for the first time on the first weekend in April. Bill Walker, he said, has been transferred from prison in Oakdale, La., to a low-security facility in Texarkana, Texas. At the Texarkana prison, Bill Walker was able to enroll in a drug and alcohol program that will cut time from his sentence, which Scott Walker indicated was his father's motivation for participating.
Father and son have not seen one another in two years. Scott Walker said, "It will be an emotional weekend for me."
No. 1 job
Scott Walker said he saw his wife, Trinity, and sons Wren, 3, and Max, 2, every weekend. His family visited at the Pensacola prison camp on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays.
"It was very hard, especially at the ages they are," Walker said. "I wouldn't wish federal prison camp on anyone, although day to day it wasn't a bad place to be at all."
Walker said he worked the window in the laundry and taught parenting classes three nights a week. At first, he volunteered to teach parenting classes, but the staff thought he was so good, he was asked to continue for pay. He said he earned $12 a month for both jobs.
Walker was released in January to a halfway house in Hattiesburg, then graduated to home confinement for the last 30 days of his sentence. He lives with his family in a waterfront home in Ocean Springs.
Trinity Walker has started a business -- Four thirty five -- to rent the home out on weekends for weddings. The business is named after their street number.
Scott Walker said he is working for a company in Hattiesburg. He did not want to mention the company's name, he said, for fear of any stigma. Walker is working in sales and government relations, he said. Government relations involves helping the business navigate city and county regulations and systems, he said.
He said the toughest part of prison was leaving his sons after visitation. They did not understand because they are so young.
"I do believe that the No. 1 goal moving forward, and the job that I want to do more than any is to be a Dad," Walker said. "I've got a lot of catching up to do."