Salts free as he awaits decision on new trial

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Michael Salts is a free man after a federal judge ordered his release from Lafayette County Detention Center.
The 61-year-old former Prentiss County funeral home owner still faces a decision from Circuit Court in Lee County before he knows the full story.
But a court document filed last week states that Salts’ attorney believes his client will be granted bail before a possible retrial on embezzlement charges.
Friday, Senior U.S. District Judge Neal B. Biggers Jr. granted defense attorney Robert “Chip” Davis’ motion to free his client, or in the alternative transfer him to Lee County.
Biggers released Salts from federal custody on his own recognizance and ordered him to report to the Lee County court within 24 hours.
“There have been no court appearances today,” said a court administrator Friday morning. She noted court was not in session, even if Salts or Davis presented himself.
In 2008, Salts and his then-wife, Marie, were convicted of embezzlement at their funeral home and sentenced to prison. Two years later their convictions were vacated by a federal judge on appeal.
He remained in custody without bond because the court considered him a flight risk. She completed her jail term.
Later, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision to vacate their convictions, but the state still has time to re-prosecute him.
On June 25, the federal court granted him bond to attend the funeral of their son, then a Lowndes County circuit judge set bond for him on a “hold” it had for him on another charge.
A Lee County circuit judge also ordered him released from custody on his own recognizance to attend to matters surrounding the son’s death, then to return to federal custody.
But July 10 he was sentenced effectively to no more prison time – credited for time served on the state conviction – on a federal charge associated with a home-purchase scheme.
In a release motion to Biggers, Davis wrote that this series of events made his client eligible for release from federal custody, and that the Mississippi Department of Corrections declined to accept his return to its custody.
Davis told Biggers that Lee County planned to set bond for Salts when he was transferred there, and he asked the judge to release Salts without a transfer.
Biggers’ “overturning of the Lee County conviction should operate to put the defendant back into the state that he was in prior to the trial,” Davis stated. “That is free on bond.”
Biggers agreed.