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Beef plant conspirator completes sentence

OAKLAND — A federal judge has terminated the supervised release for a Georgia businessman snagged in a Mississippi beef plant scandal and convicted of making an illegal campaign contribution to former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.

Nixon Cawood Jr. was charged in the federal investigation into Mississippi Beef Processors, LLC. The Oakland plant closed three months after it opened in 2004, costing 400 jobs and sticking Mississippi taxpayers with $55 million for state-backed loans.

Cawood was sentenced in 2009 to eight months in prison and three years of supervised release.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mills ended the supervision yesterday, saying Nixon has paid his fines and met the conditions of his supervision over the past year.

Cawood was an executive at The Facility Group of Smyrna, Ga. The company managed the beef plant’s construction.

Prosecutors said Facility Group executives first raised $70,000 for Musgrove.

When it became clear there were problems with the plant, Cawood and Robert Moultrie, Facility Group’s former chairman and chief executive, talked about giving Musgrove another $25,000 to influence and reward him “should his assistance be needed on the potential problems with the project,” court records said.

Moultrie was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

Musgrove, a Democrat who was governor from 1999 to 2003, was not accused of wrongdoing.

Another former Facility Group executive, Charles K. Morehead, was sentenced to 10 months on charges he withheld information during the federal investigation. He has also asked for an early termination of his supervised release. Morehead is working at Primus Builders Inc., in Woodstock, Ga., court records said, and has met the conditions of his supervision.

The beef plant, backed by the Mississippi Legislature and two state agencies, ran into trouble soon after Richard Hall, a Tennessee businessman, was given millions for the project. In response, the state hired the Facility Group to oversee the work.

Hall was sentenced to eight years in prison after admitting that he kept $751,000 in public and corporate funds for himself during the debacle.

Others convicted in the case include a contractor and refrigeration salesman.

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