- Associated Press - Friday, January 9, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A former Mississippi Chancery Court judge has been sentenced to five months in prison for obstruction of justice.

Joe Dale Walker, 61, of Monticello, pleaded guilty in October to witness tampering alleged in documents filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson.

Walker was accused of instructing a federal grand jury witness to destroy documents and then lying to FBI agents. Prosecutors said the alleged tampering covered a period from Aug. 7, 2013, until March 25.

In June 2011, prosecutors said Walker directed the attorney he had appointed for a conservatorship to solicit bids from local contractors for the construction of a home for the ward.

Five bids for construction of the home were obtained, including a bid from Walker’s nephew, Chad Teater doing business as C.T. Construction.

Walker reviewed the bids in his chambers and, upon discovering that Teater’s bid was much lower than the other bids, Walker instructed Teater to raise his bid. Teater subsequently submitted another bid which was $23,500 more than his original bid but still lower than the other bids.

Due to his nephew’s involvement as a bidder, Walker transferred the case to another judge for the purpose of accepting and approving bids for the construction of the home. After signing an order awarding the contract to Teater, the case was transferred back to Walker.

Prosecutors said before Aug. 7, 2013, a grand jury subpoena was served upon a witness to appear before a federal grand jury and to bring any and all documents relating to the conservatorship.

Walker met with the witness and was informed of the federal grand jury subpoena. During this meeting, Walker and the witness discussed the original bid from Teater, the fact that it was lower than the other bids and that Walker had instructed the witness to tell Teater to raise his bid.

Walker also asked the witness about the original bid and any existing copies. Walker then told the witness that Teater’s original bid needed to be “somewhere else” in response to the federal grand jury subpoena.

When interviewed by the FBI on March 25, 2014, Walker denied ever talking with the witness and denied ever telling the witness to get rid of the bid. Teater likewise was subpoenaed to the federal grand jury, where he proceeded to lie about the incident, and he subsequently lied to FBI agents.

Teater, 42, of Magee, also was sentenced to five months in prison and five months’ home confinement.

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