Ex-Lawyer Minor to Move to Halfway House
By Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Paul Minor, who was one of Mississippi’s most prominent civil lawsuit attorneys before going to prison in a judicial corruption scheme, is scheduled to be transferred to a halfway house Wednesday, his father said.
Minor’s father, Bill Minor, said Tuesday that his son will be sent from a federal prison in Pensacola, Fla., to a halfway house in New Orleans to finish out his sentence. Federal prison records show his release date as Aug. 20. The Federal Bureau of Prisons doesn’t comment on transfers until they have taken place.
Minor, 66, was a decorated Vietnam veteran who built a small law firm on the Mississippi Gulf Coast into one with a national reputation and made millions of dollars in tobacco, asbestos, medical-malpractice and car-safety lawsuits.
He was convicted on corruption charges in 2007 along with former Harrison County judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield.
Minor was convicted on charges ranging from racketeering to bribery and Teel and Whitfield were convicted of mail fraud and bribery. However, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later threw out the bribery convictions and the men were resentenced in June 2011. Minor, who was serving the longest sentence, was resentenced to eight years, down from 11.
Teel has already been released from prison. Whitfield is in a halfway house in Montgomery, Ala., and scheduled for release in June, according to prison records.
Bill Minor said his son plans to live in New Orleans, where he has owned a home for years. Paul Minor lost his house on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and his wife, Sylvia, died from cancer while he was in prison.
Prosecutors said Minor went to banks and guaranteed loans for the judges, then used cash and third parties to pay off the debts himself. The judges allegedly ruled in his favor in civil cases. Minor has long maintained his innocence, saying at times that the loans were meant to help friends in times of need and that he expected nothing in return.
Minor was convicted of guaranteeing $140,000 in loans to Whitfield in 1998, then using cash, a third party and a backdated promissory note to try to conceal the fact that Minor paid off the loan. Whitfield awarded Minor’s client $3.6 million in a lawsuit. The Mississippi Supreme Court later reduced the award to $1.6 million.
Minor was also accused of guaranteeing a loan of $24,500 to Teel the same year. Prosecutors said Teel forced through a $1.5 million settlement in a civil case.
Minor and the judges were first charged in 2003. Former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. also was indicted at the time.
Diaz was acquitted during their first trial and the jury couldn’t reach a verdict against the others at that time. They were convicted after a second trial.
Minor has had appeals working through the courts for years. A big Democratic supporter, Minor has claimed he was the victim of overzealous Republican prosecutors, though appeals courts have often sided with the government.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied Minor’s latest appeal on Tuesday. Minor had asked the court to overturn his sentence.
In court documents, Minor has argued prosecutors didn’t prove he received something in return for guaranteeing loans for Teel, a Chancery Court judge, and Whitfield, a Circuit Court judge.
Prosecutors said all three took extraordinary steps to hide the loans.