HATTIESBURG, Miss. — A federal judge has denied a motion to dismiss four federal money laundering charges against Hattiesburg pastor Kenneth Fairley Sr., saying the motion was filed too late.
U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett wrote in a Wednesday order that the motion, filed earlier that day by lawyer Sanford Knott, was due June 2.
Knott argued the money laundering charges were flawed because Fairley had to have the money before he could launder it and there were no acts alleged other than the check deposits of $98,000 that also underlie separate counts accusing Fairley of theft of government property.
Starrett reaffirmed in a Wednesday telephone conference that trial will begin Tuesday for Fairley and Artie Fletcher of Picayune.
Fairley, a longtime political ally of Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, is alleged to have skimmed $120,000 by inflating bills for rehabilitating three houses in a project financed by federal funds passed through the city. A March indictment alleges Fletcher, who owns New Orleans-based Interurban Development, helped Fairley by submitting bids to do the work. Instead, prosecutors say Fairley hired others to do the work more cheaply, and Fletcher passed the difference to Fairley.
Both have pleaded not guilty and are free on bail.
Starrett has ordered the jury to be drawn from the entire southern federal court district. Normally, a jury would be drawn from 12 counties around Hattiesburg. But Starrett wrote in an order Monday that news coverage of the case in the Hattiesburg area has led him to conclude that it would be easier to seat an impartial jury drawing from the entire 45-county district, because jurors elsewhere have been “less subject to the intense media coverage.”
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., has asked the U.S. Justice Department to review the prosecutions of Fairley and Forrest County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Bolton. Bolton is set for trial Sept. 12 on charges that he and his wife, Linda, evaded income taxes by hiding tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of income from businesses. Thompson wrote that he’s getting complaints that investigators are unfairly targeting black people involved in politics after Hattiesburg’s contested 2013 election. DuPree narrowly was re-elected in a second vote after a judge threw out the first election.