Warnock trial continued until April
The federal criminal trial against former Madison County Engineer Rudy Warnock scheduled to begin this week has been continued to April 3, according to documents filed with the court.
Warnock’s defense attorneys filed a motion to continue last month asking to continue the case “in order to receive all discovery and adequately review same in preparation of Mr. Warnock’s defense,” the motion reads.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi had no objection to the continuance in an agreed order filed with the court.
Warnock is facing up to 30 years in federal prison if found guilty on bribery and wire fraud charges related to work billed to Canton Municipal Utilities from 2016 to 2017.
Warnock was indicted by a federal grand jury in December 2021, but the indictments were sealed until November 2022. Warnock pleaded not guilty at his initial appearance.
Three other Canton officials were indicted by the grand jury, with two of those individuals already having pleaded guilty.
Former Alderman and Mayor Pro Temp Eric Gilkey, 55, who was also a vice president at Canton Municipal Utilities, along with former alderman Andrew Grant, 38, who was recently fired from the Madison County Road Department, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery charges, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Grant pleaded guilty in 2019 to conspiracy to commit voter fraud in connection with the 2017 Canton municipal election and received a suspended sentence of five years.
Both are facing a maximum penalty of five years in prison and are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 23.
Former CMU board member Cleveland Anderson has been charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery and faces up to five years in prison for each count. Anderson was also set to make an initial appearance this week.
Warnock was indicted on two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud. According to the Justice Department, Warnock faces up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charges and five years for each conspiracy charge if found guilty.
“According to court documents, Warnock is charged with having directed payments and rewards to Anderson, Gilkey and Grant in exchange for preferential treatment that resulted in lucrative city engineering contracts for Warnock,” a press release from the Justice Department said. “The ‘gratuities’ supplied by Warnock included thousands of dollars in cash, concert tickets, and football tickets in New Orleans.”
No other individuals are listed in the federal indictments except one identified by the initials J.M.
According to the indictment, around December 23, 2016, a check in the amount of $9,200 made payable to a J.M. was deposited and cleared an automated clearinghouse of the federal reserve bank and both Gilkey and Grant were paid $4,000 each.
Warnock was ousted as engineer for Madison County with the seating of three new county supervisors in January 2016. Some of the new supervisors campaigned on change in the county, including the removal of Warnock after a Madison County Journal investigation revealed he was paid $1.2 million for an airport feasibility study for the Madison County Economic Development Authority.
Eight months after Warnock’s removal from the county, he was hired to become the exclusive engineer for CMU and within four months had billed the utility $1.15 million for work.
Warnock’s tenure at CMU was rife with controversy from the beginning when the ousted chairman of the CMU board, Silbrina Wright, alleged corruption from the get-go.
Two months after Warnock’s hire, the CMU board ousted the general manager and increased the overall operating budget by $540,000 to nearly $13 million. At that point, Warnock then declared a sewer emergency and the board was discussing the possibility of floating a bond upwards of $30 million to $40 million to address sewer needs for the city.
Warnock was later fired in 2016 and it was at that point Warnock alleged in a lawsuit that Anderson had offered to kill Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler and Madison County Journal Associate Publisher Michael Simmons for $10,000 with use of a New Orleans hitman. No criminal charges were ever filed.
Warnock later sued CMU for $6.3 million. That lawsuit was later dismissed by a federal judge.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The story erroneaously stated that Warnock was fired from the county shortly after the check was cashed in December 2016. Warnock was replaced in January 2016.