An Oct. 6 trial date has been ordered for Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, Jr., prominent Biloxi attorney Paul Minor and three others indicted last month on federal fraud and bribery charges.
Surrounded by a bevy of lawyers, the five defendants, including the justice's ex-wife, Jennifer, and two former Gulf Coast judges, appeared at a brief hearing Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Jim Sumner, where they pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Each defendant was released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. The defendants, who were indicted on multiple counts, face jail terms ranging between five and twenty years on each of the counts and fines of $250, 000 for each count.
The charges against Diaz, Jennifer Diaz and former Harrison County judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield stem from their alleged dealings, dating back to 1998, with Minor.
The 57-year-old Minor faces up to 95 years in prison and $3.25 million in fines. He was also indicted on a charge of racketeering.
A frequent and large contributor to the campaigns of judges and others, Minor has made millions in several landmark cases, including one against big tobacco companies. Minor is alleged to have funneled money to and paid off loans for the judges in exchange for favorable court verdicts for his clients that netted Minor hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees.
Minor is a former president of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association. Diaz's attorney, Robert McDuff, said he will ask the court to reschedule the trial because McDuff has a scheduling conflict with the Oct. 6 trial date.