The five-year saga of the Mississippi beef plant and its short, corrupt life may be coming to an end. Or, depending on who’s talking, it may not.

Last week, three Georgia corporate executives for companies, know collectively as The Facility Group, pleaded guilty to greatly diminished charges connected with either making an illegal $25,000 “gratuity” as a contribution to then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s re-election campaign or concealing material facts from government investigators.

In March, they and their companies were indicted on 16 federal counts of conspiring to bribe a Mississippi elected official and to fraudulent acts related to the contract they won to build the Yalobusha County facility.

Under that scenario, they faced up to 305 years in prison and $4 million in fines, if they were convicted.

From the outside, the government’s decision to dismiss those 16 counts in favor of one count each looks like a good deal.

Got anything to tell?

The extent of their sentences will be affected by their cooperation with prosecutors – if they have anything else to tell investigators.

What more they have to tell is anyone’s guess.

Mississippi political watchers are wondering if Musgrove, now a candidate for Senate, will be indicted.

No prosecutor has said Musgrove did anything for that contribution. In fact, the charges against the execs point out each time that the “public official” was not indicted. And Musgrove insists he did nothing wrong.

One person who knows the case well said that’s it for indictments.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood told legislators last week he thinks the criminal investigation is over, but that doesn’t mean other indictments aren’t in the cards.

U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee, in a written statement last week, was evasive about anything else.

At any rate, the timing for Musgrove’s campaign has the cynics clucking that it isn’t a coincidence.

They look at the ongoing national debate about “selective prosecutions” by the U.S. Department of Justice.

They look at evidence the White House has directed an assortment of dirty tricks or public forays against its political foes.

Only the prosecutors know what’s next and they’re not talking.

In two earlier cases, plant owner Robert Hall Jr. and contractor Sean Carothers went to jail on fraud charges.

Meanwhile, Hood says he’ll file a civil lawsuit, apparently to recover money owed the state.

He speculated the criminal investigation ended with plant owner Robert Hall Jr.’s guilty plea in 2006, with a reduced sentence, which Hood figures came from whatever additional information Hall could provide.

“If Hall had it, he would have given it up,” Hood said.

But the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Republican state Auditor Stacey Pickering have said that the investigation is continuing.

NE MS Daily Journal
8/17/8