By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Former Lee County schools business manager Randy Thweatt, accused of embezzlement, was due Friday to change his not-guilty plea. He did not.
Why wasn’t clear after several dozen Thweatt friends and family waited more than an hour in a Lee County Justice Center courtroom.
But about 9:50 a.m., Circuit Judge Paul Funderburk told the audience that Thweatt’s case was not to be heard yet.
“Perhaps it will be rescheduled for as early as Tuesday of next week,” the judge said.
Funderburk said Thweatt and his attorneys continued to meet about his legal situation and were not ready to proceed.
Thweatt was arrested April 17 at the Lee County School District office by officials of the State Auditor’s Office after he was indicted on two counts of embezzlement – regarding a 2006 Ford Ranger pickup truck and a district air-conditioning unit he was accused of installing in a Starkville mobile home he owns.
Friday, he wore a dark suit and tie as he entered the Lee County Justice center about 8:20 a.m. with his family. Among the audience observers were former Lee County Schools Superintendent Johnny Green and district personnel director Johnny Dye.
Earlier in the week, sources on both sides said they expected Thweatt to change his plea to guilty and be sentenced.
But each side differed on the level of punishment they speculated to be handed down – from house arrest to up to a year in prison.
Thweatt’s attorney, Robert “Chip” Davis, did not respond to a Journal request to comment.
About 30 minutes after the hearing was set to begin, Davis escorted Thweatt and co-counsel Ed Priest to confer outside the courtroom. They weren’t seen in the courtroom after Funderburk’s announcement.
Records obtained by the Daily Journal soon after Thweatt’s arrest show the pickup truck was signed over to him by Ralph Capps, the district’s transportation director, who was placed on administrative leave with Thweatt on April 17. Capps told the Daily Journal he signed the document as the seller because he was told to do so by Thweatt.
No charges have been filed against anyone else, although auditor’s investigators stated they “were looking” at a couple of others. Thweatt announced his retirement shortly after he was indicted.
Chris Kieffer contributed to this report.