4 MHP workers face fed charges

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — Two current and two former Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol employees are facing federal charges for allegedly fixing tickets and falsifying commercial driver’s license records.

According to Saturday’s Clarion Ledger, Public Safety Commissioner Steve Simpson said the charges filed this week come after a yearlong investigation by state and federal authorities.

Facing charges are James Smith, who has worked for MHP for 17 years, and Darrell Walker, a 14-year employee. Both have been placed on administrative leave without pay.

Also facing charges are former employees Johnny Rawls, who retired last year, and Joseph Rigby, who retired earlier this year.

The men, who have not been arraigned, could not be reached for comment. Federal court records don’t show a home address or names of attorneys.

DPS spokesman Jon Kalahar said he couldn’t provide any specifics on the case. He also wouldn’t reveal the duties of the former and current employees.

All four face charges of making or providing false or fraudulent statements. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each count.

Smith is charged with five counts, Walker and Rigby four each, and Rawls with two.

The alleged ticket fixing or falsification of commercial driver’s license records occurred in 2006 and 2008.

According to the indictment against Smith, on or about Oct. 1, 2008, in Hinds County, he “did knowingly and willfully falsify, conceal, and cover up, by trick, scheme and device, material facts by creating or causing to be created, a false and fictitious entry into the record of a commercial driver’s license number … altering the speed for which a speeding ticket was written.”

Count 2 says Smith altered the speed on another ticket on or about Oct. 1, 2008. Count 3 says on or about Dec. 23, 2008, he changed the pending disposition on a speeding citation to not guilty. Count 4 says on Dec. 24, 2008, he changed guilty dispositions for running a stop sign and speeding to reflect the driver had attended a defensive driver’s school although he knew the driver hadn’t done so. Count 5 says on Oct. 21, 2008, Smith altered the speed for which a speeding ticket was written.

Walker is accused of two instances in October 2008 and a third in November 2008 of falsely indicating individuals had passed all portions of driver’s license tests. The indictment also alleges that on Dec. 2, 2008, he deleted or caused to be deleted a suspension placed in the records of a commercial driver’s license number.

Rawls is accused of altering the speed on two tickets in October 2008. Rigby is accused of three incidents of altering records to reflect drivers had passed certain tests when he knew they had not, and one incident of changing a guilty disposition to pending. DPS continues to assist in the investigation, Simpson said.