A federal judge has rejected a plea bargain
proposed by prosecutors for a construction company owner who paid
kickbacks to the operator of the defunct Mississippi Beef
U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers on Thursday said the plea
bargain for Sean Carothers was "overly lenient."
Carothers is president of Carothers Construction Co., which
built the Mississippi Beef Processors Inc. plant in Oakland in
The Oakland plant closed in August 2004, three months after it
opened, because of failed equipment and a lack of operating
The 140,000-square-foot facility, which employed 400 workers,
cost the state of Mississippi at least $55 million. Former plant
owner Richard N. Hall Jr., also pleaded guilty to charges related
to the its failure.
Community Bank, which financed the state-guaranteed loan, ended
up owning the defunct plant. Houston, Texas-based Windsor Quality
Food Co. bought the plant in June and has begun renovations.
In January, Carothers acknowledged paying Hall $173,000 and
helping Hall conceal the payments. Carothers agreed to pay
restitution to the state.
Hall pleaded guilty in January 2006 to state mail fraud charges
and federal money laundering charges. He has not been sentenced.
According to the court record, prosecutors had suggested a deal
that would give Carothers supervised probation with no jail time,
$250,000 restitution to the state auditor's office for
investigative costs and a maximum fine of $20,000. Carothers also
agreed to help federal investigators.
Biggers said in his ruling that the plea bargain "would not
serve the interests of justice and would be a radical departure
from sentencing guidelines for this case, and it is therefore
Biggers set a hearing for Aug. 1. He gave Carothers an option of
continuing with the sentencing hearing knowing that the plea
bargain wasn't accepted or withdrawing the plea and going to trial.
On Friday, Carothers' attorney Tony Farese declined comment on
Biggers' opinion without talking to his client.
Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal,