Judge grants delay in beef plant trial in Mississippi

Published 4:41 pm Thursday, April 10, 2008

A judge has set Aug. 25 as the new date for a federal corruption trial in a case tied to a failed Mississippi beef processing plant.

The trial originally had been set to start May 19 in Oxford.

U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills on Tuesday agreed with defense and government requests to reschedule the trial.

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Mills said it was unreasonable to expect adequate preparation time for the May date, with multiple defendants and the complicated nature of the prosecution.

Those indicted in the case are Facilities Management Group of Smyrna, Ga., which operates under several different names, and three of its executives — Nixon Cawood Jr., 58; Robert Moultrie, 67; and Charles Morehead, 57. All are free on bond.

The indictments were handed down in February and unsealed in March.

They are accused 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 or indicted, but events outlined in the indictments correspond to the dates of fundraising events that The Facility Group executives held in 2003 for Ronnie Musgrove, who was seeking a second term as governor. Musgrove, a Democrat, was defeated by Republican Haley Barbour that November.