JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Another man has been charged with bribing former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps, authorities have announced.
Prosecutors filed a criminal charge Thursday in federal court in Gulfport against Robert Simmons, alleging he kicked back part of his consulting fees on three separate contracts to Epps.
The charge also alleges Simmons bribed an unnamed Harrison County Supervisor in exchange for help securing a Harrison County jail medical contract for Jackson-based Health Assurance. Former Supervisor William Martin committed suicide last year before he was due in federal court on bribery charges.
Federal court records listed no attorney for Simmons who could speak for him.
No court date had been set Monday for Simmons to appear to answer to the charges. People who agree to admit guilt often waive their right to indictment and plead guilty to criminal charges, but it's unclear if that's going to happen in Simmons' case. A prosecutor didn't immediately respond to an email late Monday, a federal holiday.
The criminal charge says that Simmons began bribing Epps in July 2012 when consulting for Sentinel Offender Services of Irvine, California, which supervises probationers and parolees. Prosecutors say Simmons was paying Epps $1,400 a month of his $4,000-a-month consulting fee. Prosecutors say Simmons, who lives in Harrison County, deposited money direct into Epps' accounts by visiting bank branches in coastal Mississippi.
Prosecutors say Simmons also paid Epps a portion of a $10,000-a-month consulting fee he got from AJA Management and Technical Services of Jackson, which managed construction of expansions at Walnut Grove Correctional Facility and East Mississippi Correctional Facility. The criminal charge says Simmons also kicked back a portion of a fee from another unnamed company that was doing work on Walnut Grove and East Mississippi.
While the criminal charge doesn't specifically name Martin, Simmons is alleged to have bribed the supervisor beginning in 2005. That lines up with the time bribes are alleged to have begun in the indictment against Martin that was returned in February 2015. Martin never appeared in court to answer the charge. The Harrison County coroner said Martin, a former prosecutor, shot himself in the head at his north Gulfport home hours before his first scheduled court appearance.
Epps pleaded guilty in February to two felony bribery counts, with prosecutors saying he collected $1.47 million in bribes.
Epps is scheduled to be sentenced April 11. He faces up to 23 years in prison and has agreed to forfeit $1.7 million in cash and assets. Two other men who have pleaded guilty to bribing Epps also await sentencing, and third man indicted on bribery charges await an April 4 trial date.