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McCrory seeks to withdraw guilty plea in prison corruption

A former Mississippi lawmaker is asking to withdraw his guilty plea in a long-running prison corruption case.

In papers filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Cecil McCrory of Brandon said he is innocent and is requesting a jury trial.

McCrory’s current attorney, Carlos Tanner, wrote that McCrory received ineffective representation from his first attorney. Prosecutors did not give McCrory all documents needed to prepare his defense, Tanner wrote.

“Considering the sheer volume of discovery involved in this prosecution, it is highly improbable that Mr. McCrory’s prior lawyer had time to analyze those materials between the time he received them and the time Mr. McCrory entered his plea,” Tanner wrote.

McCrory, a former state House member, operated a business that had contracts with the Mississippi prison system.

He and former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps were indicted in August 2014, but the indictments remained under seal for three months. Prosecutors revealed the case against the two men in November 2014, a day after Epps retired from his $132,700-a-year job as head of the prison system — a job he had held a dozen years under three governors.

McCrory pleaded guilty in February 2015 to one count of money laundering conspiracy and faces up to 20 years in prison. He’s also forfeiting $1.7 million in assets.

McCrory remains free on bond. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 21, but that would change if U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate allows McCrory to withdraw the guilty plea.

Epps faces up to 23 years in prison after pleading guilty in February 2015 to money laundering and filing false tax returns related to $1.47 million in bribes prosecutors say he took. He is forfeiting $1.7 million in assets. Epps’ sentencing has been delayed several times, and is set for May 24. He had been free on bond, but Wingate revoked his bond and ordered Epps jailed last month after police in a Jackson suburb charged him with burglary for taking exterior lights and a control box from a house he had forfeited.

Several other people have been charged in the corruption case.

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