By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
The only Mississippi Beef Plant scandal defendant to do state and federal prison time is free on early release, Mississippi Department of Corrections records show.
Richard Hall turned 53 two days before his supervised freedom on July 6, more than a year into an eight-year sentence.
His attorney, John Husser of Rome, Ga., confirmed Hall was approved for the “earned release supervision.” He will be supervised by the Yalobusha County Field Office.
The program reportedly is limited to first-time, non-violent offenders.
During the past three years, MDOC has used early release programs, house arrest and probation to whittle down its prison populations in an effort to save millions of dollars in inmate housing costs.
MDOC spokesman Grace Fisher said Hall must serve his supervision within the state. If he violates any conditions, he must serve the remainder of his sentence in a facility. His tentative discharge date is Aug. 29, 2014, and the maximum date is Sept. 23, 2015, she added.
In 2012, Hall was taken into state custody and imprisoned just days after his federal prison time was shortened by leniency.
He reportedly had hoped his cooperation with federal prosecutors in the North Mississippi scandal would amount to something, and it did, as far as federal time was concerned.
The beef plant scandal began as a seemingly well intentioned effort by the state Legislature to promote agricultural jobs in the north part of the state.
Construction of the processing plant was directed to Yalobusha County, and in 2000 Hall, whose family had beef business experience, was approached about building and operating the plant.
Ultimately, he failed to get enough financing, a Georgia-based company took over and the plant closed barely three months after it opened in August 2004, leaving hundreds out of work and the state of Mississippi on the hook for more than $35 million on guaranteed loans.
In early 2006, Hall was charged federally with mail fraud and a conspiracy to defraud the state, the bank and others.
To avoid heavy prison time, he pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering and he agreed to tell authorities whatever he knew about the scandal. He also pleaded guilty to state mail fraud charges.
In September 2007, he was sentenced to 96 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution of $577,964.59. He reportedly thought an equal state sentence would be served at the same time.
Nearly a year later, the government asked for leniency on his sentence, and 2 1/2 years after that, a federal judge granted a 32-month reduction in sentence.
Hall was released from federal prison on May 18, 2012, then was scooped up by state authorities 13 days later.
He’s spent most of his state prison time at South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville.
Four others and the Georgia facilities management company were indicted on federal charges associated with the Beef Plant scandal, and these men also spent time in federal prison.