Judge vacates Saltses’ convictions

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

GREENVILLE – Michael and Marie Salts’ embezzlement convictions were wiped away Thursday by a federal judge’s order.
U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper’s decision means Michael Salts should be released from a jail sentence and Marie Salts’ house arrest be reconsidered, said their attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo.
Whether the Mississippi attorney general’s office plans to retry them wasn’t known Thursday night.
“I cannot express how delighted I am,” Waide said on hearing the news late Thursday.
The couple was indicted by a Prentiss County grand jury in May 2003 on six counts of embezzlement. The indictments alleged that over 17 years, they embezzled thousands of dollars from an insurance company.
Key to their change of fortunes was a June 2009 report and recommendation by Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis that said the couple was denied effective counsel during their trial in Lee County.
Davis recommended that their convictions be vacated and the state be given 120 days to begin a new prosecution.
That’s what Pepper ordered, with Davis to determine their release on bond or personal recognizance.
The Saltses were convicted in October 2005. Each was sentenced to 10 years in prison and their children were taken in by relatives.
They appealed while in jail, saying their original lawyer withdrew because of a conflict of interest, then their second lawyer dumped them at the last minute and the case was forced upon Waide with only a weekend to prepare for trial.
The case bounced through the state appeals system and finally wound up under federal scrutiny.
Recently, Marie Salts completed her state time and has been on house supervision. But her husband was denied the possibility of parole because of a previous conviction.

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