Appeals, updates from 2012 headline court cases

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Northeast Mississippi legal cases occupied the headlines throughout 2012, whether on the county or federal level.
Here are updates in some of the most prominent of them:
David Parvin appeal
Former professor David W. Parvin waits in prison to learn if his life sentence will be upheld by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Parvin, 73, was convicted in 2011 on state allegations he shot and killed his wife, Joyce, at their home near Aberdeen Marina.
His attorneys spoke before the state’s highest appeals court on Nov. 19 and claimed expert testimony put on by prosecutors failed to support Parvin’s conviction.
They said testimony from three witnesses lacked credibility.
Parvin claims he tripped while walking with a shotgun in his hand, and when the gun discharged his wife was hit as she sat in a chair in their home.
The state said that wasn’t possible from what its evidence showed.
Parvin is serving his sentence in East Mississippi Correctional Facility at Meridian.
Becky Jones trial
A new trial was set to begin Feb. 19 in Booneville for Rebecca “Becky” Jones, accused in the May 2010 shooting death of her mother, Jane Jones.
Becky Jones went on trial Oct. 1 but a mistrial was declared when she failed to appear on its third day.
Jones reportedly was in a semi-conscious condition in an Alabama hospital and her attorneys and authorities have yet to know why she became ill suddenly.
Upon her release weeks later, Jones was re-arrested.
North Lee Water update
Former North Lee County Water Association manager Dan Durham awaits sentencing after his Dec. 12 guilty plea to lying about water sample reports to the Mississippi Department of Health and Environmental Protecton Agency.
Durham is the only person accused of any crimes associated with a scandal that brought down the leadership at the non-profit utility. Employees claimed they were forced to work side jobs for Durham while on North Lee’s clock and also on properties owned by board president Mitchell Scruggs.
Both men denied the allegations when they were made earlier in 2012.
The allegations fueled a customer protest and state investigations that ultimately brought about leadership and operation changes.
Today, NLCWA has a new manager and a new board, and officials report progress on upgrading the system and how it’s operated.
Bostick indictment
Harry Russ Bostick of Oxford faces a 2013 trial in the Oct. 7, 2011, DUI death of 18-year-old Charity Smith.
Bostick, a former IRS agent, was indicted on three counts surrounding Smith’s death as she drove her vehicle on U.S. Highway 278.
He and others drew national attention in January, as Gov. Haley Barbour went out of office with some 200 pardons and leniencies.
Before Smith’s death, Bostick had three DUI arrests and was going through a court-ordered drug rehab program. With three DUIs, he faced the possibility of imprisonment.
But Barbour’s pardon erased that third DUI and a suspended-sentence violation, which had put him into jail.
His trial is scheduled in Pontotoc County.
Aldridge dispute
State Rep. Brian Aldridge and his Tupelo charity, Touched By An Angel Ministries Inc., await action from the Mississippi Supreme Court on their appeal of a chancellor’s order that they repay a relative whose estate they spent.
Tagging along with the appeal are Brian’s parents, Louis Aldridge and Janice Aldridge.
All three people and TBAAM were sued by Florence Aldridge, 68, after she discovered that while she was ill, her estate she’d entrusted to brother-in-law Louis was gone.
A year ago, a judge ordered Louis and Janice to repay her $552,000, the charity to repay $140,100 and Brian $218,355.
The judge said that while Brian wasn’t personally liable for the $522,000-plus his aunt lost, as its CEO, he was legally responsible for the charity through which Louis funneled some of the money.
Meanwhile, Florence Aldridge suffered some health setbacks and resides in an assisted-living facility in Ecru.
Monroe Schools dispute
Trial is set to begin June 3 in Oxford for former Amory Schools principal Leigh Todd’s lawsuit against the district and others.
Todd claims then-Superintendent Gearl Loden and special ed director Dr. Candace Moore conspired to thwart Todd’s efforts to become curriculum director.
Todd was fired after the well publicized discipline of a second-grader, forced to stick out his tongue for an entire school day.
She seeks to regain her job, as well as actual and punitive damages.
Lee Schools cases
Randy Thweatt, former business manager for the Lee County School District, continues his year-long house arrest after pleading guilty to embezzlement last September.
The 50-year-old was arrested April 17 by State Auditor’s agents after he was indicted on two counts of embezzlement involving a 2006 Ford Ranger pickup truck and a district air conditioning unit he was accused of installing in a Starkville mobile home he owned.
Tentatively, he is due to complete house arrest Sept. 5, 2013.
In a separate case, former Lee County Schools superintendent Mike Scott and Tupelo attorney Jamie Franks settled their legal issues against each other arising out of Scott’s extramarital affair with Franks’ then-wife.
The legal disagreements arose from separate sets of allegations. Scott claimed Franks threatened him with a lawsuit if he didn’t resign his elective office. Franks accused Scott of alienating Mrs. Franks’ affections leading to their divorce.
Before Franks’ case could come to trial, he settled with the school district and then both sides announced in court they’d come to other non-specified agreements to end the disputes.
Bank robbery solved
Robert Thomas Shantz of Georgia admitted in a Tennessee federal court that he’d robbed Tupelo’s Trustmark Bank in July 2011.
The admission came as he pleaded guilty to a July 2011 robbery of a Memphis area bank – one of several he committed across the South during that summer.
In October, he was sentenced to 78 months in prison for the Bank of Bartlett armed robbery.
He also agreed to plead guilty to indictments for the other robberies, although no such action has occurred in the Northern District of Mississippi.
Faulkner fights
Nobel laureate William Faulkner’s daughter’s publishing company wants damages for allegedly unauthorized use of the writer’s work.
In two lawsuits – filed North and South Mississippi federal courts – Faulkner Literary Rights LLC complains against Northrop Grumman Corp., the Washington Post Co. and Sony Pictures Classics Inc.
Northrop Gumman published a full-page ad in the Washington Post to memorialize 9/11 while Sony Pictures used a well-known phrase by Faulkner in the movie, “Midnight in Paris.”
The lawsuits were filed in late October.
In the Sony case, defendants want the lawsuit moved to Southern New York.
The other apparently was dismissed recently on agreement of all parties, who will bear their own legal costs.
That usually means it’s been settled in some way, but likely the terms are not public.
Bowling case
Former Smithville football coach Dwight Bowling’s appeal of his 2011 conviction was denied in early December.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the government’s motion to dismiss his appeal, which claimed the court was wrong to sentence him more severely than judicial guidelines set.
Bowling, 57, continues serving a 300-month federal prison sentence for his guilty plea to tampering with a witness and transporting minor boys across state lines for sex.
Civil lawsuits are still active against Bowling and the Monroe County School District and some employees, whom Bowling’s victims claim knew about or should have known about his sexual misconduct while he was a district employee.
After Bowling completes his federal sentence, he still faces extensive state prison time for convictions on witness tampering and fondling of young boys.
Bowling’s second wife also divorced him.
Scruggs cases
Richard F. “Dickie” Scruggs’ appeal arguments are set for early March before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, where his son Zach’s appeal was turned down a few months ago.
Dickie Scruggs of Oxford is free on bond while the appeal is considered for his 2009 guilty plea to attempting to improperly influence then-Judge Bobby DeLaughter, who presided over a legal fees lawsuit against Scruggs and others.
Scruggs, 66, contends it was protected “political speech,” not bribery, when he offered to help DeLaughter win a federal judgeship.
The 5th Circuit turned down Zach Scruggs’ appeal of his 2008 conviction to failing to report knowing a colleague had an illegal conversation with Judge Henry Lackey, also presiding over a legal fees lawsuit against the Scruggses and others.
Zach, who maintains he was innocent despite his plea, urged the court to throw out his conviction because the crime alleged was no longer a crime under a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Whether he will appeal further wasn’t known at year’s end.

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