- Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A judge has again delayed sentencing for a former Mississippi corrections commissioner and two men who have admitted to bribing him.

U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate on Friday put off sentencing hearings that had been set for Monday and Tuesday. Court records show Wingate plans a Tuesday conference to discuss the status of the cases against former Commissioner Christopher Epps, Brandon businessman Cecil McCrory and Carthage prison phone consultant Sam Waggoner.

Epps pleaded guilty in February to two felony bribery counts, while McCrory pleaded guilty to one count. Prosecutors say the two were at the center of a bribery scheme that eventually resulted in Epps collecting $1.5 million in bribes from McCrory and others. Epps used the money to buy a house in an upscale subdivision, buy a beachfront condo and later trade up to a nicer one, and buy two luxury vehicles.

Epps faces up to 23 years in prison and fines of $750,000. He has agreed to forfeit $2 million in assets. His wife, Catherlean S. Epps, says some of the assets Epps agreed to give up belong to her.

McCrory faces up to 20 years and fines of $500,000. He has agreed to forfeit $1.7 million in assets.

Those two men had originally been scheduled for sentencing in June.

Waggoner pleaded guilty in August to one bribery count after waiving indictment in an agreement with prosecutors. He told Wingate he paid more than $108,000 in kickbacks to Epps from a consulting contract with prison phone company Global Tel-Link. Waggoner faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines, and has also agreed to forfeit $200,000.

On Jan. 15 Waggoner’s lawyer sought a delay, saying Waggoner was hospitalized at St. Dominic’s Hospital in Jackson and was experiencing complications following another heart surgery. Waggoner also underwent heart surgery on Oct. 8. Waggoner was originally set to be sentenced Nov. 5.

Epps’ lawyer, John Colette, asked for a delay on Jan. 12, saying he needs time to research sentencing issues. Colette wrote in his motion that in a confidential pre-sentencing recommendation, the United States Probation Office had calculated that Epps’ crimes resulted in the “loss” of $300 million for the state.

It’s not clear if that’s the total value of all the contracts that prosecutors allege resulted in bribes to Epps, the value of how much they allege the state overpaid, or some other calculation. A higher loss could drive up how much prison time is recommended for Epps under federal sentencing guidelines.

Prosecutors did not oppose the delays.

Wingate last month delayed until April the trial of former state lawmaker Irb Benjamin, also accused of bribing Epps. Benjamin faces charges that he bribed Epps to provide drug and alcohol treatment to state inmates, help Benjamin get consulting contracts from three county jails, and share consulting fees from a company helping maintain state prisons.

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Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy. Read his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/author/jeff-

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