I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! ~ Galatians 2:21
Give ‘em a show that’s so splendiferous, row after row will grow vociferous.. ~ Fictional lawyer Bill Flynn
Both of those quotes come to mind to explain what I saw on Monday in Hattiesburg at Bill Walker’s sentencing. Let’s start with the part that is guaranteed to raise the collective blood pressure of the residents of South Mississippi. Michael Janus and Scott Walker did a fair amount of mutual backslapping during the break between Janus’ sentencing and Bill Walker’s hearing. It did not violate proper courtroom personal decorum in my opinion but given the circumstances I thought it was a bit odd.
Bill Walker OTOH barely spoke a word instead relying on his lawyer Bill Kirksey, who Judge Starett concluded “well represented” Walker before he sentenced him to 60 months in prison and this gets us to the “splendiferous” part. You gotta figure Walker paid a fortune for Kirksey’s professional services, the most practical application of which meant that most everyone assembled in the courtroom got a small share of misery. To set up that which I am speaking we need to start with some lovely music:
To set up my understanding of the legal issues involved Bill Walker pleaded guilty to an offense that carries a maximum of 5 years in prison. His pre-sentencing report, because of the fact Walker has not cooperated etc contained several sentencing enhancements including one that derived from the amount of money the guy looted from the public’s purse and thus the ultimate amount that would be entered into the record became the subject of a dispute between Team Walker and the US Attorney. For my part, I figured out quickly that in the end that particular dispute would have no impact on Bill Walker’s sentence and this is where the misery comes in as Bill Kirksey called Chris Lott with the State Auditor’s office to the witness stand. Kirksey exploited the fact that State Auditor Pickering settled his civil demand against Walker for a fraction of the original civil demand. He also exploited the fact that Lott played a fools game trying to differentiate the business and personal use of the Californian and Topaz, the boats owned by the Mississippi Marine Resources Foundation, a special purpose entity designed to benefit Bill Walker personally. Kirksey dismantled Lott which set up his examination of FBI Forensic Accountant Nancy “Colleen” Davis.
Davis calculated the amount of the loss related to Walker’s criminal activity at a total close to $1.8MM. In that total there were additional underlying calculations such as the illegal expenditures out of the Foundation itself, which Walker funded with taxpayer funds that he diverted for his criminal activity. Another calculation related to the amounts spent by DMR directly on the boats. Agent Davis did better than Lott but Kirksey managed to confuse both her and the judge mixing and matching the different pots of money along with the fact Auditor Pickering settled his office’s civil demand against Walker for pennies on the dollar. Davis’ calculation was spot on in my professional opinion and the reason she is spot on is also why the Auditor’s office played a fools game differentiating between business and personal use of the boats.
For instance Agent Davis correctly stated the public money Bill Walker diverted and then looted from the Mississippi Marine Resources Foundation never belonged to the Foundation so it was a complete loss in total with the exception of the small amount of residual funds recovered. IMHO she should have also forcefully argued the fact that the DMR expenditures on the boats was also a 100% loss without prorating between Walker’s business and personal use of the boats because THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF MARINE RESOURCES DID NOT OWN THE CALIFORNIAN AND TOPAZ. This is why I find it so strange the State Auditor’s office actually gave Walker the benefit of the doubt.
As for me, knowing the right answer, not being able to speak up, coupled with the fact Mr. Kirksey was quite disagreeable gave me the urge to want to smack Bill Walker. Judge Starett split the baby on the loss, reducing it by several hundred thousand dollars to no ultimate difference in the sentence. It is at this point I gotta give the AP’s Jeff Amy credit because he had the new loss number figured before Judge Starett and Agent Davis. By that point in the hearing most everyone in the press corps was shifting around in their seats waiting for the hangin’, umm I mean sentencing and this brings me back to that Galatians verse that lead off this post.
Michaela Hill was not forgotten folks and the account of the events which lead to her tragic suicide was contained in the Walker pre-sentencing report. Team Walker wanted it stricken from the report while the prosecution was adamant on keeping it in. On that issue Judge Starett sided with the prosecution. The pre-sentencing report is a sealed document that is not available to the public as a general rule but as I have mentioned several times Mrs. Hill’s family blames Bill Walker for what happened to her. According to lore, Walker was attempting to keep Mrs. Hill on the reservation (and away from the OIG auditors and FBI agents) by threatening to throw her under the bus for his misdeeds. She could not take the pressure Walker heaped on her thus her tragic end. I hope Mrs Hill’s family derives a measure of comfort from the inclusion of that part of the saga in the document which was used to send Bill Walker off to prison.
Finally, in my opinion Bill Walker will soon leave for prison firmly in denial. Years of self entitlement and crushing people that get in the way tends to do that to a person I think. He’ll have lots of time to think about it though when he reports to prison.
Still on tap are the Joe Ziegler and Tina Shumate federal trials along with the state cases against Kerwin Cuevas and Tina Shumate. Kerwin Cuevas is particularly interesting because in addition to the artificial reef program he also served as Bill Walker’s personal skipper on the Foundation boats. I suspect he knows where lots of bodies are buried.
Stay tuned because more muck promises to bubble up before this is done.