Warr Attorneys to Ask for Extension
by Keith Burton - GCN 2/20/09
In a brief hearing Friday morning in U.S. District Court in Gulfport, attorneys representing Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr and his wife Laura received a favorable ruling on a motion requesting additional information on insurance fraud charges. The request was based on four counts of the 16 count indictment issued January 28. The the other counts deal with Katrina fraud associated with the Warr's receipt of a homeowner grant from the Mississippi Development Authority.
Attorneys also are expected to soon file a motion asking for a delay in the date of the trial, which is currently set for April 6.
(GCN Photo left: Laura and Brent Warr January 28)
Defense attorneys said in their motion for additional information that they needed specifics to better prepare their case. Prosecutors had argued in legal filings that there was sufficient information for the defense council to prepare for trial. Judge John Roper agreed with defense motion. Prosecutors have until February 27 to provide the additional information to the defense.
The case stems from a year-long government investigation that followed a GCN report over a year ago on Warr's receipt of a state homeowner grant. Federal investigators say Warr's receipt of a$150,000 grant on a house his family never lived in violated the rules of the grant program.
The rules of the grant program required recipients to both own and occupy their homes prior to the August 29, 2005 hurricane. Warr and his family lived in a relative's home prior to the hurricane. He had only taken office a month earlier as mayor. The couple is represented by different attorneys. Brent Warr is represented by Gulfport attorney Joe Sam Owen, while Laura Warr is represented by Jackson attorney Frank Trapp.
Both Brent and Laura Warr have denied any wrong doing.
State auditors that examined the MDA's homeowner grant program report very little fraud. Over 26,000 grants were awarded in the program and less that 1 percent were found fraudulent. Out of 300 questionable cases state auditors found 58 cases of suspected fraud. Federal authorities report that over 160 guilty please have been made for Katrina fraud.
Current Case Schedule:
1. Non depositive motion due by March 2
2. Depositive motions due by March 9
3. Change of plea due by March 19
4. Jury instructions, exhibit and witness list due by April 1.