Tacker case likely goes to federal jury today

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

ABERDEEN – Biodiesel entrepreneur William T. “Tommy” Tacker II could know today whether he will remain a free man.
Tacker, 56, of Okolona is accused in a 10-count indictment of defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s biofuels subsidy program of some $3 million from 2003 to 2006.
Mid-afternoon Tuesday, his defense rested without calling anyone to the witness stand.
Just moments before, Senior Judge Glen H. Davidson denied the defense’s request to acquit Tacker. He said prosecutors had established a “reasonable finding” that Tacker could be guilty at least of conspiracy and aiding and abetting the scheme, despite the defense’s possible success at painting Tacker’s chief accuser as a liar.
The 12-member jury, with two alternates, will convene at 9:30 a.m. today to hear closing arguments from the assistant U.S. attorneys Robert Mims and Clay Dabbs. Tupelo attorneys Robert “Chip” Davis and Rhett Wise represent Tacker.
Tacker and H. Max Speight, 66, of Martin, Tenn., were indicted in the alleged scheme last spring. Speight pleaded guilty to one count nearly two weeks ago and was the prosecution’s chief witness.
On the stand more than two hours Tuesday morning, Speight admitted he falsified nearly every document submitted to the USDA’s subsidy program for alleged production increases at the Nettleton refinery for Biodiesel of Mississippi Inc. Tacker was its president and Speight its secretary. The company went bankrupt in 2006.
Speight claimed Tacker knew all about the fraud, although it was only his word to that effect.
Davis pressed Speight about how he handled USDA payments through an account in Tennessee.
“By January 2003, you personally were deeply indebted?” Davis suggested. “In a desperate condition?”
“Yes,” Speight testified.
Davis continued, “According to the documents, you are the one who has done all this?”
“Yes sir, I did,” was Speight’s reply.
If convicted of all counts, Tacker faces up to 50 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine. Speight’s guilty plea netted him a maximum five years in prison.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com. Read her blog, From the Front Row, at NEMS360.com.