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:
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.