A federal grand jury returned a sixteen count indictment against Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, Jr., his ex-wife Jennifer Diaz, trial lawyer Paul Minor of Ocean Springs, and two former judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield, accusing them of fraud and bribery.
Reaction to the indictments is what you might expect, considering the seriousness of the charges.
"It's bad in the fact that if you find some people that have made mistakes in those positions, it throws a bad light," said Gilford Dabbs,
a Quitman attorney and a candidate for Senate District 33.
"Even though it is horrible, I think that there can be some positive come out of it. Hopefully, they will make some changes," said Sen. Videt
Carmichael of Meridian.
The charges come after a year-long corruption investigation that was launched last fall. It centered around trial lawyers allegedly paying off bank loans for state judges, in exchange for favorable treatment in court.
"Apparently, we have some deep-rooted problems," said Rep. Eric
Robinson of Quitman. "We are going to have to take a look at it and do some house cleaning."
The indictiments involving Diaz could very well alter how trial lawyers donate to political candidates and how willing the candidates will be to accept money.
"This gives us the opportunity to go back and look at campagin reforms," said Carmichael.
If convicted, all five defendants could face lengthy prison terms and millions of dollars in fines.