Appointment could affect Neilsen case

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Former Congressman Don Cazayoux is on track to become the new U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana.
So, why should anybody care in Northeast Mississippi?
Because the indictment of Oxford FBI agent Hal Neilsen – one of the final prosecutions pushed by the previous North Mississippi U.S. attorney, Jim Greenlee – was turned over to Middle Louisiana. Now-departing U.S. Attorney David Dugas, a Republican appointment, reportedly was a close associate of Greenlee.
Neilsen is accused of lying about his personal financial interest in a building leased by the FBI in Oxford.
Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a longtime prosecutor to be interim USA in the Baton Rouge office.
With all this going and coming, the question looms: What will Democrat Cazayoux (pronounced CAZ-yoo) think about whether this indictment was personal or political or appropriate?
North Mississippi insiders and friends of Neilsen say Bush appointee Greenlee had it in for Neilsen after Neilsen told Greenlee his beef plant investigation was leading nowhere, especially not to former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who was running for the U.S. Senate against GOP Roger Wicker. Neilsen says as much, too.
Musgrove was never indicted or ever came close, folks say, but his continual mention in the beef plant scandal story, no doubt, helped him lose that race.
If you recall, the beef plant was a Yalobusha County, state-backed project to build a cattle processing facility and employ hundreds of people. It was open only briefly, putting them out of work and the state on the hook for $50 million in loan guarantees. The plant’s owner and contractor went to jail, along with some Georgia consulting company execs, who pleaded guilty to seeking Musgrove’s influence with campaign contributions.
Political observers are still scratching their heads about that latter one.
As for Neilsen, he pleaded not guilty a few months ago and promptly underwent triple-bypass surgery. His trial was re-set for August.
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume Cazayoux’s nomination wins approval in a contentious, partisan U.S. Senate.
Cazayoux is likely to want to review whatever criminal cases are being handled by his new office, especially one that’s come from an entirely different state. He’s going to want to know why it’s in his lap.
Neilsen’s prosecution may be delayed because of that possibility.
Even if and when north Mississippi gets a new U.S. attorney, there still will be too many existing conflicts of interest in the Oxford office to allow the Neilsen case to come back to home prosecutors.
But it may not be much of a priority for Cazayoux.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.