Lumberton police chief heads to federal court on fraud charges

LUMBERTON, MS (WDAM) - The suspended Lumberton police chief will stand trial in federal court in Gulfport on May 11 on Katrina fraud charges.

Federal Judge Louis Guirola refused to rescue himself from hearing the case, and an ongoing conflict between the town's mayor and some aldermen spilled over into a federal courtroom.

Tuesday, defense attorneys presented three signed affidavits from aldermen Miriam Holder, Quincy Rogers, and Terr Cannaday. The sworn statements indicated that in an executive session on Feb. 17, Mayor Larry Strahan said an FBI agent came to his house and told him he knew the judge, and the agent would bet Strahan $100 that Hammond would get 30 years in prison. The conversation was taped.

Hammond's attorneys argued Tuesday because of the statements the judge's impartiality might be questioned. The motion went on to say the FBI agent has inferred he had a personal relationship with the court and or had been informed by the court it already prejudged the case without the benefit of a trial.

Guirola refused to step down as trial judge and ordered the case to go on as scheduled.

Meanwhile, Strahan said he plans to meet with the district attorney over the recording of an executive session, which he said is illegal. Hammond, who is suspended without pay, remains free on $25,000 bond.

Former Police Chief Maurice Hammond was indicted in 2008 on eight counts of fraud in connection to property he owns in Poplarville. The federal indictment claims Hammond received more than $19,000 by falsifying documents claiming the property was his primary residence at the time of Hurricane Katrina.