By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – FBI Agent Hal Neilson pleaded not guilty Monday to all counts in his federal indictment, and his trial was set for next month.
After accepting Neilson’s plea, Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander set his bail at $5,000, unsecured. He remains free without restraining conditions while awaiting trial except that he was required to surrender his passport.
The deadline for a plea agreement was set at Feb. 22.
Neilson is charged with two counts of acts affecting a personal financial interest and three counts of making a false statement.
The indictment alleges that while Neilson served as supervisory senior resident agent for the FBI’s Oxford Resident Agency, he acquired a one-third interest in the partnership that owned the Oxford FBI building and that he profited through a $50,000 loan from the partnership.
It also alleges that he made false statements about his interest, including failure to include it in a required disclosure.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rich Bourgeois and Rene Salomon from the Middle District of Louisiana are leading prosecution of the case after the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford recused its officers.
They declined to make any statement about the case after Monday’s arraignment. Defense attorney Ken Coghlan could not be reached for comment.
Neilson’s trial was set for March 8 in Aberdeen before U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock.
If Neilson were to be convicted, he could face possible penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment and $1,250,000 in fines.
Neilson, 49, was the supervisory senior resident agent for the FBI’s Oxford office from 1998 to 2008 and reportedly has one year left before he qualifies for retirement.
He has alleged that the charges stem from a vendetta against him by U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee, who retired Sunday, for whistleblowing allegations that Neilson made against Greenlee’s office.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.