Wes Teel seeks separate trial from Whitfield in bribery case

Published 4:10 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Former Chancery Judge Wes Teel is seeking to be tried separately from former Circuit Judge John Whitfield in a federal bribery case because Teel says Whitfield and another lawyer are “viciously attacking” his son, former Harrison County Deputy Ryan Teel, in a wrongful death lawsuit.

A motion filed Monday seeks to sever Wes Teel’s case from Whitfield’s in U.S. District Court, The Sun Herald reported on its Web site.

Ryan Teel, 29, was arrested Aug. 28 on federal criminal charges in the Feb. 4 fatal beating of Harrison County jail inmate Jessie Lee Williams Jr. He is accused of violating Williams’ rights under color of law with excessive force in an attempt to kill Williams.

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Whitfield and Wes Teel are among the three defendants in the judicial bribery case. Whitfield and Gulfport attorney Michael W. Crosby have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in the Williams case. Crosby is Whitfield’s defense attorney in the judicial bribery case.

Wes Teel’s motion claims Whitfield and Crosby are “viciously attacking” his son through the civil lawsuit involving Williams’ death and through Crosby’s Web site, www.michaelwcrosby.com.

Wes Teel is set for trial in October in an alleged conspiracy that also names Whitfield and Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor as defendants.

It is the second trial in the judicial bribery case. Jurors in August 2005 were unable to reach verdicts on charges against the three, though jurors acquitted Minor and State Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. of bribery charges.

Ryan Teel is set for trial Nov. 6.

Williams was killed in the Harrison County jail booking room. Williams’ beating also was videotaped, though the recordings from jail cameras have not been made public.

Former Harrison County jailer Regina Rhodes pleaded guilty Aug. 7 to federal accusations of assaulting Williams and covering it up. Her sentencing is Oct. 16.

Rhodes has agreed to be a government witness as others are investigated. She claims, by her guilty plea, that she routinely witnessed unnecessary force in the booking room and efforts to conceal it.