Former Miss. judge released from federal prison

By Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Pres

JACKSON — A former judge has been released early from prison for good behavior after serving almost four years related to a judicial corruption case that toppled one of Mississippi’s most prominent lawyers.

Former Harrison County Chancery Judge Wes Teel had been in prison since December 2007. He was convicted in a judicial corruption case along with Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor and former Harrison County Circuit Court Judge John Whitfield.

Prosecutors said Minor went to banks and guaranteed loans for the judges, then used cash and third parties to pay off the debts himself. The judges allegedly ruled in his favor in civil cases. Minor has said the loans were meant to help friends in times of need and that he expected nothing in return.

Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Ed Ross says the 60-year-old Teel was released Tuesday. His attorney, George Lucas, was out of the office and didn’t immediately respond to a message.

In June, a federal judge reduced Teel’s sentence from 70 months to 51 months after an appeals court threw out some of the convictions against him. Minor, 65, and Whitfield, 49, had their sentences reduced, too, but remain in prison.

U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate resentenced the men because the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated their bribery convictions in 2009. The court upheld other convictions, including honest services fraud against each of the men and racketeering against Minor.

Minor was re-sentenced to eight years, down from 11. Whitfield got about six years, a reduction of 22 months.

Teel and Whitfield have had medical problems during their incarcerations. Teel suffered a heart attack shortly after entering prison in December 2007 and had heart surgery in January 2008.

Whitfield suffers from for Crohn’s disease. There is no cure and the causes are unknown. With the disease, the immune system goes awry, causing inflammation in the intestinal wall.