Catching up here after the weekend with this story from the Sun Herald reporting attorney Joe Sam Owen plans to request a delay in the trial of Gulfport mayor Brent Warr.
Mayor Brent Warr and his wife, Laura, will ask a federal judge to delay their trial on Katrina-fraud charges, Brent Warr’s attorney, Joe Sam Owen, said during a hearing Friday.
The Warrs are preparing for trial the first week in April. Brent Warr has said he will run for re-election this spring, although he has not filed papers to qualify.
Owen and Laura Warr’s attorney, Frank Trapp of Jackson, both said they expect to have mountains of paperwork to review before trial.
The expected mountains of paperwork will provide the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly what it is the government is claiming – and until the hearing last week, the Warrs and their attorneys were uncertain of the exact claims and if they’d have the information before they went to court.
Owen and Trapp had filed a Motion for Bill of Particulars, discussed here in Like a game of 20 questions, in an effort to find out the details of the charges related to the Warr’s homeowner’s coverage with Lexington Insurance.
The hearing was about four additional mail-fraud charges — “the Lexington charges,” the defense calls them — involving Lexington Insurance money paid to the Warrs…
Owen said the insurance company would not release any information to the defense.
At the hearing, Magistrate Judge John M. Roper ordered prosecutors to provide more-specific information about the insurance allegations. The mail-fraud charges stem from three insurance checks totaling about $66,000 that Lexington Insurance sent the Warrs and a letter Brent Warr wrote Lexington to demand $25,000 in additional coverage.
Owen told Roper it was impossible to discern in what way prosecutors believe the Warrs misrepresented their insurance claim. The indictment says only they made “material misrepresentations” regarding personal property and “the extent of renovations and damage caused by Katrina.”
Owen outlined five scenarios that language could entail, including that their personal property was elsewhere, that it was not destroyed, that they hadn’t done any renovations or that the storm caused less damage than they claimed to the renovations.
Owen told Roper: “I just want to know which scenario I’m defending and I think it’s reasonable under the circumstances.”
Roper agreed, saying prosecutors should have the information, called a Bill of Particulars, to the Warrs’ attorneys no later than Feb. 27.
The prosecutor for the USA left many scratching their head by arguing the defense was trying to determine and limit the government’s theory of the Warrs’ crimes when presenting opposition to the Bill of Particulars.
Prosecutor Annette Williams…did win one argument. The defense also wanted to know what each of three Lexington checks was written to cover: personal property, structure, loss of use or outbuildings.
“The essence of a mail fraud count is the mailing — not the scheme,” Williams said. “They have a copy of (Brent Warr’s) letter. They know specifically that they received and cashed those checks.”
If the Warrs were convicted, she said, the amounts of the checks would be used to help determine the length of the sentences. “The amounts are there for sentencing,” Williams said, “so the amounts don’t really matter.”
The Warrs will receive detailed information about the insurance checks through the pretrial discovery process, Roper said. He did not see any need to order those details furnished sooner.
The current deadline for prosecutors to turn over the information is mid-March, but that would change if the trial is delayed.
A copy of Roper’s Order is here, compliments of the Sun Herald.