Warnock trial scheduled for Aug. 5

Warnock trial scheduled for Aug. 5


Embattled former Madison County Engineer Rudy Warnock is scheduled to go to trial on Aug. 5 on federal bribery and wire fraud charges.

Still, after a status conference on Monday, it’s possible that the trial could be pushed late into the fall.

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 after indictments were unsealed in November 2022.

According to the indictments, Warnock is alleged to have gifted cash, football tickets, and concert tickets in exchange for engineering contracts with the city of Canton and CMU.

Former Canton Municipal Utilities Chairman Cleveland Anderson, also set to go to trial in August on bribery charges, may be the reason for the continued delay.

On Monday, Anderson told U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate he was looking to obtain new legal counsel.

“Where are you on representation at this point,” Judge Wingate asked Anderson on Monday.

Anderson said he has attempted to hire two attorneys, but the cost of $40,000 wasn’t feasible.

“It would deplete my family reserves,” Anderson said, saying he would thus be unable to take care of his family.

Anderson is currently represented by Damon Stevenson, a Jackson attorney.

“At this juncture, are you prepared to go to trial in August,” Judge Wingate then asked Stevenson.

Stevenson said he was “sufficiently prepared,” with the caveat of not knowing how in-depth any additional discovery may entail.

Stevenson then said there was a rift between him and his client.

“I think my client had some concerns,” Stevenson said. “There have been some attempts to resolve this, short of a trial. My client may have misunderstood or misinterpreted some of the court’s prior statements. I think that may have caused some distrust between Mr. Anderson and myself.”

Anderson initially pleaded guilty, but his plea was rejected by the court after saying he didn’t do anything wrong.

Stevenson asked that they try to declare Anderson indigent so that he may receive a CJA (Criminal Justice Act) panel attorney, with costs absorbed by the federal government.

Judge Wingate asked about how voluminous the discovery material was, how long it would take to get a new attorney up-to-speed on the case, and how long the trial was estimated to last.

“If I were to allow a new counsel to come in, what kind of prediction would you make for new counsel to come up to speed between now and Aug. 5,” Judge Wingate asked.

John Colette, defense attorney for Warnock, said that attorney would have to do nothing but focus on this case.

“It’s sitting down, listening to undercover recordings,” Colette said of the amount of discovery. “Some of it you can comprehend, some of it you can’t. It’s a lot of material.”

An initial ask made in May for a trial date in October was then brought up as a conflict, as the U.S. Attorney’s Office has since scheduled a trial date for that time. Then, Judge Wingate asked if Stevenson could competently represent Anderson if he were not removed from the case. Stevenson said he could, and if he were appointed by the CJA panel, that would give him the extra resources.

“The position is, in order for him to have the best possible outcome at trial, it’s going to take significant resources,” Stevenson said.

“Apply your client to the panel, and let’s see what they say,” Judge Wingate said. “After that, I’ll address this matter.”

Colette then said this could be “designated as a complex case” and that could provide funding for an additional attorney if the government would agree it’s a complex case.

“What (Stevenson’s) made is a request the panel appoint him,” Judge Wingate said, adding it wasn’t a request for a second attorney.

“I do concur with Mr. Colette,” Stevenson responded. “I do think this is a complex case.”

Wingate said that’s something he can take to the panel, but it wasn’t a request he had made.

“Had Mr. Anderson not made his request for new counsel, we never would have gotten this far,” Judge Wingate said. “I’ll let you take that matter up in front of the panel.”

Judge Wingate said if it weren’t for Anderson wanting a new attorney in the first place, they would be headed for trial, so the panel may see a request for another attorney as “antagonistic.”

Wingate said he didn’t want to make any other decisions in the case until he was sure who was representing Anderson moving forward.

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