The civil trial involving the state and the Georgia-based company hired to manage the construction of the failed Mississippi Beef Processors plant in Oakland has been taken off Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Winston Kidd’s calendar.
The trial had been scheduled to start Monday morning.
Dorsey Carson, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, would not comment when reached on his cell phone Friday, other than to confirm that the trial was not going forward as of mid-afternoon.
Usually, a civil trial being removed from a judge’s calendar means the two sides have reached a settlement, or are close to doing so.
The state of Mississippi, its now-defunct Land, Water and Timber Board and the Mississippi Development Authority are suing Facility Construction Management Inc. in an effort to recoup some or all of the $54 million the state lost when the cull cattle plant closed shortly after it opened in 2004.
Three Facility executives have since been released from federal prison after they each plead guilty to making an improper donation to former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s campaign. Richard Hall, former president of Mississippi Beef Processors, is still incarcerated in a facility in Kentucky, according to the Bureau of Prisons website, and is scheduled for release in May.
The pre-trial phase of the Beef Plant litigation is about to end.
The state and the private counsel it hired is suing Georgia-based Facilities Group, in an attempt to recoup the roughly $55 million the state lost when the cull cattle facility in Oakland failed. Facilities Group was brought on board to manage the construction of the plant. Three of its executives were eventually convicted of making an illegal gratuity to former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s campaign.
Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd took two motions under advisement at a hearing Monday. Lawyers for the Facilities Group argued a motion for summary judgment, which would effectively throw out the case. Plaintiffs argued a motion to give them possession of the records from the grand jury proceedings that led to the indictment of the Facilities Group executives and Richard Hall, who the state hired to run the facility.
Kidd didn’t rule on either motion Monday, but said he would by late this week or early next week. The trial is scheduled to start March 19.
Dorsey Carson, who represents the plaintiffs, said in a phone interview Tuesday morning that two mediation sessions have failed to render a settlement. Carson didn’t sound optimistic one would be reached before it’s time to pick the jury.
“Both sides have exchanged offers but frankly I don’t think they are going to come up with enough money (to settle it),” Carson said.
It’s likely settlement talks will take on a keen sense of urgency if Kidd denies the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, which represents their last chance to terminate the litigation short of settling. If March 19 arrives and there’s still no agreement, negotiations will probably get super serious.