Ex-mayor convicted of murder conspiracy released from prison

BILOXI — Former Biloxi Mayor Pete Halat was released from prison yesterday after serving 15 years in a conspiracy that led to the 1987 slayings of a Mississippi judge and the judge’s wife, also a Biloxi City Council member.

The Sun Herald reports Halat, 70, was released from federal prison in Oakdale, La., and moved to a halfway house

Family friend and Coast restaurateur Bobby Mahoney said Halat’s wife, daughter and two sons picked up the former mayor. Mahoney told the newspaper he thinks Halat was taken to a halfway house near Hattiesburg.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking details about Halat’s location.

Circuit Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife, Margaret, were slain in their Biloxi home on Sept. 14, 1987, in a plot involving a lawyer, a Louisiana prisoner and a strip club owner.

Halat and Vincent Sherry had been law partners, starting in 1981. Halat was elected mayor 1989 and lost a re-election bid in 1993.

Halat was convicted in 1997 of conspiracy to commit racketeering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

The Sun Herald reports Halat is expected to be released from the halfway house in April.

In the 1980s, Bobby Joe Fabian, Dixie Mafia kingpin Kirksey McCord Nix Jr. and other inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola began running lonely-hearts telephone scams that mainly targeted homosexual men who sent thousands of dollars, thinking they were helping young men get out of minor scrapes with the law and join them.

Fabian testified that Nix ordered the Sherry slayings because Halat had convinced Nix that Vincent Sherry had stolen some of Nix’s proceeds from the scam. Fabian estimated the scam might have collected $5 million.

According to court testimony, Halat knew about the murder plot against the Sherrys and failed to notify law enforcement. Former Biloxi striptease lounge owner Mike Gillich was the chief prosecution witness when Halat and three others were convicted in 1997.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Halat’s appeals in 2000.

Gillich, John Ransom, Nix and Nix’s girlfriend, Sheri LaRa Sharpe, were convicted in 1991 on a federal conspiracy charge. Gillich was released from prison in July 2000, after serving nine years of a 20-year sentence, and died of cancer in April 2012.

Fabian, who had congestive heart failure and other health problems, died in June in the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman.

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