By JEFF AMY
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The wife of a former Mississippi lawmaker says she wants to plead guilty to paying kickbacks to the state's former corrections commissioner.
Teresa Malone pleaded not guilty in July 2016 to paying Christopher Epps $1,000 to $1,750 "regularly" over almost four years. She's one of two defendants currently charged in the scandal over bribes involving Mississippi state prison contracts, though prosecutors have promised more indictments.
Epps acknowledged accepting more than $1.4 million in bribes from private contractors and is serving a nearly 20-year prison sentence. Seven other people have been convicted so far, while an eighth person, former Harrison County Supervisor William Martin, killed himself in 2015, hours before he was due in federal court on bribery charges.
Malone, of Carthage, is the wife of former state Rep. Bennett Malone, 73, a Democrat who was the onetime chairman of the House Corrections Committee. Prosecutors say payments from Teresa Malone to Epps were kickbacks from a $5,000-a-month consulting contract Epps steered to her from a health care consultant. Malone allegedly got more than $170,000. She faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 if convicted. Her husband, who is seriously ill, has not been charged.
U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate indefinitely delayed her trial in January after her lawyers said she was suffering complications from a double lung transplant and undergoing periodic treatments in New Orleans for six months. The judge set a trial date last week for July 31, and her lawyer, Jamie Franks, entered her change of plea motion on Monday. He wrote that Malone's treatments should wrap up in August and her legal team would be available in September.
Also awaiting trial is insurance broker Guy "Butch" Evans of Jackson, who has pleaded not guilty to kicking back part of his insurance commissions to Epps by making cash payments of $1,400 to $1,700 a month from January 2013 to May 2014. That's at least $23,800 Evans is accused of passing to Epps.
Evans faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 if convicted. Evans' trial had been set for June, but has been delayed until at least August.
Prosecutors want both Evans and Malone to forfeit their gains.