- Associated Press - Saturday, April 15, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Lawyers for a high-ranking Mississippi law enforcement official convicted of tax evasion are seeking a new trial for their client.

The attorneys claim say Forrest County Chief Deputy Charles Bolton should be retried because the original proceeding was tainted by a conflict of interest.

However, U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett ordered the lawyers to make those arguments to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, because lawyers had already appealed the case.

“The court no longer has jurisdiction to adjudicate defendants’ pending motions,” Starrett wrote. “The matters addressed in these motions should be directed to the Fifth Circuit.”

Bolton and his wife, Linda Bolton, were convicted in September for dodging taxes on revenue from their restaurant and liquor store. Charles Bolton was sentenced to 45 months in prison, while Linda Bolton was sentenced to 30 months. The couple must jointly pay $146,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. Charles Bolton was also fined $10,000, while Linda Bolton was fined $6,000.



Charles Bolton’s lawyers say his former attorney, Joe Sam Owen, was paid in part by Hattiesburg attorney John Lee. Bolton claimed at trial that he cashed checks from Lee to facilitate extramarital affairs, but didn’t owe taxes on that money because Bolton hadn’t benefited from it. An IRS agent testified at the trial that Lee had also been investigated on tax matters.

Owen, Bolton’s former lawyer, described the claims as “absolute nonsense” in a telephone interview Friday.

Federal investigators questioned more than $274,000 in checks that Bolton and his wife cashed from their two businesses between 2009 and 2013, many of which were not written by Lee.

The new defense team, led by Mobile, Alabama, lawyer Willie Huntley claims that because Owen was paid by Lee, Owen may not have been able to represent Bolton strongly enough.

“The actual conflict created further divided loyalties, possibly requiring Owen to choose between vigorously representing his client (Bolton) or pleasing the person (John Lee) paying the client’s legal fees,” Huntley wrote.

In an email, Owen wrote that $60,000 in checks he received in 2014 from Lee and a representative of Lee paid for him to represent Bolton in an investigation of whether food was being stolen from the Forrest County jail. Bolton was never charged in that case.

“The check attached to the recent filed motion was dated November 2014 and related to the Charles Bolton 2014 food case,” Owen wrote in an email. “John Lee was not involved in the alleged 2014 food theft allegation.”

A jail kitchen worker and a kitchen supervisor pleaded guilty to federal charges. The supervisor, Alan Haralson, died at the end of 2015 before he could be sentenced for theft and mail fraud.

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Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy . Read his work at https://www.apnews.com/search/JeffAmy .

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