Janus plea hearing: Magilla the Gorilla in the room

Magilla the Gorilla via Wiki

I had to laugh at the remarks of one of the assembled defense attorneys, who made my acquaintance today telling me how much he enjoyed my Louisiana coverage.  The assembled media included Warren Kulo, Ruth Ingram, Doug Walker, Jeff Amy and Anita Lee plus one blogger.

Ironically the session started off with what was billed as a quick true up hearing for a civil case that quite frankly caught my interest as much as the Janus plea hearing.  Judge Starrett knows his damages including exhibiting some specialized knowledge of the sand and gravel business that was quite impressive.  I’ll leave the inside chatter on the inside but Judge Starrett continued the hearing because the numbers did not make sense to him.  I followed the lawyer out of the courtroom with my business card (day job) in case the Plaintiffs decided to reach out for some help.  Damages I know.

Lest I digress there are three points I want to make but before I make them we need to visit with the best two accounts of the hearing in no particular order:

Janus pleads guilty to fraud, will testify against Scott Walker ~ Anita Lee

Janus changes plea to guilty on fraud charges ~ Jeff Amy

As I said on twitter Janus was solemn throughout.  HIs face had an ashen hue and eye circles that betrayed sleep deprivation.  Serious business this type of thing is folks.  Before I drill down on the two stories here is the text of the minute entry on today’s hearing:

Minute Entry for proceedings held before District Judge Keith Starrett:Change of Plea Hearing as to Michael Janus held on 2/10/2014. Executed Plea Agreement and Plea Supplement submitted to the Court. Plea entered by Michael Janus (1) Guilty Count 2s. Sentencing set for 5/16/2014 at 09:30 AM in Courtroom 1 (Hattiesburg) before District Judge Keith Starrett. Defendant allowed to remain on same bond pending sentencing. Appearances: Cliff Johnson for defendant; Jerry Rushing, AUSA; Jason Alexis, USPO; Billy Valentine, Marcus Bass, DUSM; Lamar Cranford, CSO; Court Reporter/Transcriber Fred Jeske

We have this from Anita:

Janus acknowledged that he tried to cover up the $180,000 “finder’s fee” D’Iberville paid Walker in December 2011 by having a legitimate vendor submit the invoice for payment. The vendor, Chris Gouras of consulting firm Gouras & Associates, refused, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Rush said during the plea hearing.

Janus offered Gouras a 20% cut of the action yet Gouras did the right thing. Now this from Jeff after Gouras refused:

Rushing said Janus and Walker then signed a backdated contract between D’Iberville and Maxwell-Walker Consulting, a company controlled by Walker and Pascagoula Mayor Robbie Maxwell. After the company cashed the check, Walker sent $90,000 to JaWa Investments LLC, a company Walker and Janus jointly formed in 2010.

Of the $90,000, $40,000 went to pay off money JaWa had borrowed to buy a share of Biloxi’s Columns Bar. The other $50,000 went to pay a debt that prosecutors didn’t explain.

And this begs question number one because at that point of the hearing I mumbled something about this not making sense but we need one additional bit of background in the grant that paid the finders fee because it came from Mississippi DEQ. AUSA Rushing said the Government was to produce witnesses from both the Governor’s Office and DEQ in convicting Janus and I am certain there were people waiting on standby at Team Phil and DEQ waiting to throw Michael Janus on the bus. So here is the question:

If Gouras did not nab the grant and Maxwell-Walker did not nab the grant who in the heck helped the City of D’Iberville get that DEQ grant? Seems to me that $3,000,000 DEQ grants to build aquariums do not grow on trees here in Mississippi. Given Anita’s quotes from Team Walker, who attended the hearing, I imagine their spidey senses were tingling too, especially since Janus gave a qualified admission of guilt that required some clarification for Judge Starrett. Janus knoweth not what anyone from the DEQ or Gov’s office would say about that matter and he was right to clarify his admissions, as laid out in the factual basis of the Janus plea, which hopefully will hit PACER soon.

The next question is exactly who the heck is this D.R. that was mentioned today. Anita and Jeff deciphered the C.G. aka Chris Gouras but D.R. was omitted from the reporting.

Finally not so much a question but an observation that the Columns bar again enters the narrative as well as the IMMS and the Ocean Expo Aquarium. Seems to me, as Biloxi Blues points out there is major smoke coming from D’Iberville City Hall. It defies the imagination that Mayor Quave could not have known something was amiss, especially given the business relationships involved. I am not hopeful these issues will be fleshed out in the coming prosecution.

In any event these are my early thoughts about today’s hearing.

16 thoughts on “Janus plea hearing: Magilla the Gorilla in the room”

      1. I’m wondering if some posit that D.R. is/was involved with Columns at 132?

        As reported long ago in ‘Oversights’ disclosed in $3M BP grant
        D’Iberville paid Maxwell-Walker firm $180,000 finder’s fee By MARY PEREZ

        Janus and Walker also are investors in Columns at 132, a bar in Biloxi. Among the other investors in the bar have been Hornsby, who said he had a 6 percent interest in the business, lost money and has since gotten out of the business, and David Rothbart, who was hired as court administrator for D’Iberville in March.

        “The council did approve that,” Janus said of Rothbart’s contract. He serves as a consultant rather than a city employee and Janus said he earns $20,000 a year — “peanuts for what he does.”

        Based on Rothbart’s experience in courts and law enforcement, Janus said he was the person to make the court department more professional.

        “Yes, he is a personal friend of mine,” Janus said of Rothbart. “Scott (Walker) has been a friend of mine. Dub (Hornsby) and Mr. Rothbart — “we’re all friends. At the end of the day we work together.”

        Additional support:
        Whois TheColumnSat132Biloxi.com TheColumnSat132Biloxi.com Whois Record

        Domain Name: THECOLUMNSAT132BILOXI.COM
        Registrar URL: http://www.godaddy.com
        Registrant Name: David Rothbart
        Registrant Organization: The Columns at 132

    1. If Gouras didn’t advocate for the grant, and Walker didn’t advocate for the grant, and Janus was denied thrice, then just who in the heck at MDEQ reviewed, vetted and decided that shipping down $3,000,000 to build IMMS a show place was good use of grant money? But it would seem that someone at MDEQ and the Governor’s office should at least account to the public why the Ocean Expo project merited the money and how Janus/Walker knew it was available for a portion to be shaved off. On a side note, I’d bet getting the “grant file” with a FOIA would be blocked by the Feds. Maybe this will come out at trial.

      1. Raul,Good question. I think the answer might be Bill Walker with the DMR called Trudy Fisher at DEQ on behalf of the IMMS-Ocean Expo where his wife worked and his son was a paid consultant for. This makes sense because they are all involved in the Dolphins for Dollars scheme. They also had MDA on behalf of the governors office interacting to get money in the hands of both D’Iberville and Moby Solangi. This 3 mil is only a small portion of the taxpayer money that has been thrown at this wasteful boondoggle. FREE THE DOLPHINS!!! Lock up Moby Solangi and the Walkers instead.

          1. Please elaborate oh wise one. I am making some assumptions but based on what we know from past interactions between Bill and Trudy this makes the most sense. When Scott showed Daddy that he had $180,000 to be had the call was made and the deal was done. Just a couple of months before the $3,000,000. was asked for, Scott’s lot was bought for $210,000 due to Bills interacting with others. Of course we know he was co-signed on that deal. They were getting bolder with each transaction. Next we need to find out if Sharon Walker also got compensated for the no work her son was not doing to get Trudy to send the check. Surely Bill had her salary/pay/retirement in mind when he made the call. We know he is a real family man

          2. Since Doug has announced a post coming I’ll hold my comments on this aspect of the dolphin boondoggle and stop back later 😉

  1. That is because Dub was one of the owners. There were nine partners. We know Walker, Janus, Hornsby were three of them. Who are the other six? Scott Walker once said they were opening the Columns @ 132 so business men would have a place to go, have a drink and discuss business deals. Now it appears the deals discussed were rather illegal at best. They had a private conference room that could be reserved for things like back dating bogus contracts. As previously stated these guys were all hat and no cattle. The only business asset they had was Bill Walker at the DMR. The Columns at 132 is, by coincidence, right down the street from Gouras and Associates. I am glad to see what I suspected all along. Scott Walker did nothing to secure the $3,000,000 gift from DEQI thought at most he called Bill who called Trudy and told her “send money”. Now it appears it was just made up to get the $180,000. in the hands of the Jawas. I give Scott Walker a week or two before he pleads. I just hope the make him plead guilty to all counts. That jug head deserves a job somewhere doing other peoples striped laundry.

    1. >>>We know Walker, Janus, Hornsby were three of them. Who are the other six?<<<

      I have to run now, I have already supplied one of the other names above: David Rothbart. Additionally: John Codella. See the review of Columns @ 132 here for that name drop: http://www.myvirtualpaper.com/doc/GulfCoastObserver/current/2012020301/16.html#16

      I believe I have some more of the names, not sure if the others ever been posted before. Will be back on this later when I have time.

      1. rfp,I do believe you solved the DR riddle. For some reason the remaining names have not been revealed before. There is a reason for this. Now we have 5 with 4 to go.

        1. I’m not at all sure about that. It’s at least an interesting possibility. Knowing how the friends and family plans works… I’m just placing a marker :-)

  2. Word on the street is Rothbart, Walker and Janus also ran some money through Irish Coast Pub in Gulfport. Seems the bar scheme is a favorite for money laundering attempts.

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