HATTIESBURG, Mississippi — Bill Walker, the former head of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, was sentenced to the maximum of 5 years in prison for his role in a public corruption case Monday afternoon here at the William M. Colmer Federal Building in Hattiesburg for sentencing.
Walker pleaded guilty earlier to defrauding the federal government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Walker was also ordered to pay a $125,000 fine and $572,689 in restitution. He and his family showed no reaction when the sentence was handed down.
“I am pleased that Judge Starrett took into consideration the $1.3 million identified by the State Auditor’s Office in relationship with this case, and that Bill Walker is being held accountable for his actions with DMR and the DMR Foundation,” State Auditor Stacey Pickering said in a released statement.
“Walker stole from the taxpayers of Mississippi, and this sentencing should serve as a warning to all those in positions of leadership that this type of behavior is unacceptable.”
Walker will also serve three years of supervised release after his prison sentence is complete.
Walker’s wife, Sharon, told The Mississippi Press shortly after the hearing ended that the family would have no public comment. Walker’s attorney, William Kirksey, did address the media briefly outside the courthouse.
“I’m naturally disappointed with the sentence,” Kirksey said, “but I accept Judge (Keith) Starrett’s decision.
“My client did what a man would do,” Kirksey added. “He stood up and took responsibility for his actions. Now he’ll serve his time with grace and look forward to restarting his life once his sentence has ended.”
Walker has 60 days before he must turn himself in to federal authorities to begin his sentence. Restitution payments will begin immediately, with payments on the $125,00 fine to begin once restitution is complete.
The restitution amount includes $100,000 to the National Park Service and $110,000 to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — restitution for which he will share responsibility with his son.
The remaining $362,689 will be paid to the State of Mississippi.
Earlier Monday, Walker was accompanied to court by his wife, his daughter-in-law Trinity, and his son, Scott, who will learn his own fate July 23 from his guilty to plea to the same charge to which his father plead, as well as a separate fraud charge from another indictment in which he was named along with former D’Iberville City Manager Michael Janus.
Janus was sentenced to 21 months in prison Monday and ordered to repay $180,000 to the City of D’Iberville — jointly with Scott Walker. He has 60 days to report to prison. Janus also was handed three years of post-release supervision.