By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ecru insurance agent Ken Nowlin claims his criminal attorney, Tony Farese of Ashland, forced him to plead guilty to a federal insurance scam, and that Lafayette County Supervisor Johnny Morgan lied to try to take a big insurance contract from him.
These allegations come from a U.S. District Court document filed Tuesday as Nowlin seeks to get his conviction vacated and his guilty plea set aside.
Nowlin contends he was not guilty of a scheme to pay then-Lafayette County supervisors’ president Gary Massey part of his agent fee as the county’s insurance consultant. Massey was the consultant before he won election to the board.
Massey also pleaded guilty to the scheme. Both men served prison sentences, paid restitution and are on supervised release.
The new document, asking the court to let his attorneys question Farese and Morgan under oath, claims Farese “coerced” Nowlin into pleading guilty by advising him that he was guilty and that he had to plead rather than face a possible 75-year sentence if found guilty in a trial.
“Absolute falsehoods,” Farese said about the allegations. “It’s not uncommon in the criminal defense business for people who become disenchanted to file these kinds of charges.”
Morgan, the current board of supervisors president who owns a large insurance company, said he was reluctant to comment. “I don’t know anything about this,” he said.
Nowlin’s attorneys say the questions for Farese and Morgan are “necessary” to convince the court to hear his assertions.
Why Farese allegedly coerced Nowlin into pleading guilty is a question the attorneys say they want to develop at a hearing.
Nowlin claims his family insurance agency was Morgan’s main competitor in the region before his indictment.
He also claims Farese set out to help Morgan and Lafayette County in its lawsuit against its health insurance contractor, Trustmark Life Insurance Co., and its administrator, Total Plan Services Inc. And he says Farese rushed Nowlin’s case to a plea to help defeat Massey’s re-election in 2007.
The document states that Morgan’s testimony in a related deposition that he didn’t know about Total Plan in 2004 is contradicted by evidence showing Morgan’s 2003 attempt to take away the business from Nowlin.
Late last week, the U.S. District Court closed the case against Total Plan, saying no reasonable jury could find it did anything wrong.
Recently, Trustmark settled with Lafayette County, which sought damages for profits the company made during the time Nowlin and Massey were alleged to have been involved with the insurance contract.
The government has until early April to respond to Nowlin’s hearing request.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.