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Insurance co. wants Diaz kicked off case

JACKSON — An insurance company wants former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz kicked off a lawsuit involving imprisoned former attorney Paul Minor.

Minor, meanwhile, thinks the federal judge in the case should step down because he’s the same judge who presided the criminal case that sent Minor and two former judges to prison.

Minor, Diaz, and former Harrison County judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield were indicted on federal corruption charges in 2003. Diaz was acquitted of all charges. The others were eventually convicted on various counts in a retrial.

Now Diaz is Minor’s lawyer in a $12.5 million lawsuit brought by USF&G Insurance Co. USF&G is suing Minor, Peoples Bank, and Teel. USF&G says Diaz could be called as a witness in the case and shouldn’t be representing Minor.

Teel ruled Dec. 18, 2001, in favor of Minor’s client, Peoples Bank, in a case against USF&G. Two months later, USF&G settled for $1.5 million in favor of the bank.

USF&G complained in court papers that Teel and Minor had fraudulently obtained the $1.5 million because of loans Minor guaranteed for the judge.

Minor acknowledged guaranteeing the loans but said he was only helping a friend. Prosecutors said Minor paid off or guaranteed loans to the judges to influence their decisions in his cases.

Earlier this month, Diaz file court motions seeking the removal of U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate, who presided over the criminal case, according to The Clarion-Ledger.

Minor, Whitfield and Teel were convicted on numerous counts in 2007.

A 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New Orleans later threw out a bribery conviction for each of the men, but upheld other convictions, including mail fraud, wire fraud and honest services fraud. The court also tossed one conspiracy charge each against Minor and Teel.

They are scheduled for resentencing in January. Minor is currently serving the longest sentence of the men, 11 years. It’s not clear how much the reversal will reduce Minor’s sentence because he got the most time for a racketeering conviction, which was upheld.

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