Delay sought in beef plant trial in Mississippi

Published 3:52 pm Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Defendants are asking to delay a federal corruption trial in a case tied to a failed Mississippi beef processing plant.

Trial is now set for May 19 in Oxford for The Facility Group and three executives of the Georgia-based architecture, construction and engineering company.

In court documents filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Oxford, attorneys are asking for a delay until at least Aug. 11 because one of the attorneys has a separate case set for trial in June.

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Indictments accuse the executives and the company of corruptly giving campaign donations to a Mississippi official to reward the official for the state’s hiring of The Facility Group.

The company got a contract in 2003 to manage the completion and design of the Mississippi Beef Processors plant near the tiny north Mississippi town of Oakland.

The plant was open only a few weeks before it failed in 2004 and left 400 people out of work. Mississippi was stuck with $55 million in state-backed loans for the 140,000-square-foot plant.

The Mississippi official was not named in the indictments. But a series of events outlined in the indictments match up with campaign contributions Ronnie Musgrove reported in 2003, when the Democrat unsuccessfully sought a second term as governor.

Musgrove was not indicted. He is challenging Republican Roger Wicker for a U.S. Senate seat; the race is on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Those indicted were Robert Moultrie, 67, of Smyrna, Ga., chairman and chief executive officer of The Facility Group; Nixon E. Cawood, 58, of Woodstock, Ga., chief operating officer of The Facility Group; and Charles K. Morehead, 57, of Lilburn, Ga., executive vice president of the Project Quality Control Management Group for The Facility Group.

Also indicted was Facility Holding Corp. of Smyrna, Ga., which does business as The Facility Group, Facility Management Group Inc., Facility Construction Management Inc. and Facility Design Group Inc.

The indictments were handed down in February and unsealed March 25. All those indicted appeared in court March 25 in Oxford and pleaded not guilty. They are out on bond.