Former Chancery Judge Pleads Guilty to Federal Obstruction of Justice
JACKSON, MS—Joe Dale Walker, 61, of Monticello, Mississippi, pled guilty today in U.S. District Court to a criminal information charging him with obstruction of justice, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis and FBI Special in Agent in Charge Don Alway.
Walker was charged with instructing a federal grand jury witness to destroy documents and then lying to FBI agents. He will be sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge David C. Bramlette III on January 8, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. in Jackson, Mississippi. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
From 2010 to the present, the defendant, Joe Dale Walker, was the elected Chancellor for the Thirteenth Chancery Court District of Mississippi, covering Covington, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence, Simpson and Smith Counties. In June 2011, Judge Walker directed the attorney he had appointed for a conservatorship to solicit bids from local contractors for the construction of a home for the ward. Five bids for construction of the home were obtained, including a bid from Judge Walker’s nephew, Chad Teater d/b/a C.T. Construction. Judge Walker reviewed the bids in his chambers and, upon discovering that Teater’s bid was much lower than the other bids, Walker instructed Teater to raise his bid. Teater subsequently submitted another bid which was $23,500 more than his original bid but still lower than the other bids. Due to his nephew’s involvement as a bidder for the Newsome house, Walker transferred the case to another Chancellor for the limited purpose of accepting and approving bids for the construction of the Newsome home. After signing an order awarding the contract to Teater, the case was transferred back to Walker.
Prior to August 7, 2013, a grand jury subpoena was served upon a witness to appear before a Federal Grand Jury on September 4, 2013, and to bring any and all documents relating to the Conservatorship. On August 7, 2013, Walker met with the witness and was informed of the Federal Grand Jury subpoena. During this meeting, Walker and the witness discussed the original bid from Teater, the fact that it was lower than the other bids and that Walker had instructed the witness to tell Teater to raise his bid. Walker also asked the witness about original bid and any existing copies.
When interviewed by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on March 25, 2014, Walker denied ever talking with the witness about two bids submitted by Teater and denied ever telling the witness that Teater’s original bid needed to be “somewhere else” in response to the Federal Grand Jury subpoena.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst.