Indicted Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr Not to Seek Re-election
Warr Attorneys Ask Judge for Delay in Warr and Wife's Katrina Fraud Case
By Keith Burton 3/3/09 GCN
Late Tuesday afternoon, the mayor's office released a videotaped message broadcast on WLOX news where Warr explained his decision. Rumors about Warr's decision not to run were rampant throughout the city. It was anticipated by some that Warr would make an announcement at today's City Council meeting, but he did not. He was at most of the meeting, leaving after 4 p.m.
Both Warr and his wife Laura were indicted by a federal grand jury January 28, for defrauding the government and an insurance company over losses they suffered during Hurricane Katrina. The government alleges the couple did not live in their beachfront home prior to Katrina, a requirement of the Homeowner Grant program Warr obtained to remodel a home on the beach. The Warrs have said they did nothing wrong.(GCN photo right: Mayor Brent Warr and wife Laura-Jan. 28, 2009)
In a related matter, the recently retired CEO of Hancock Bank, George Schloegel, called a news conference for 6:30pm Tuesday evening to announce he is a candidate for mayor. Schloegel was the man behind Warr when Warr ran for mayor in 2005. Schloegel is a major participant in the Gulf Coast Business Council and has played a major role in Warr's administration. Warr appointed Schloegel to the city's recently formed Gulfport Re-Development Commission, a group that is tasked with developing the city, particularly the former VA hospital property. Schloegel is seen as a continuance of Warr's grand plan to reshape the city.
Schoegel said at his announcement that, "I don't have a platform at this time, I've only been in the race for 12 hours." He also said that "We have what is reported as the second largest city in the state. What a springboard for success."
Schloegel promised that he would run a quick campaign. Among the people also running for the post is former Harrison County Civil Defense Director Joe Spraggins. Others may also now enter the race since Warr is out including Councilwoman Barbara Nalley.
Meanwhile, Warr's attorneys have filed a motion to push back the trial date of mayor and his wife. The motion to ask for a delay in the trial is not an unexpected action. His attorney's indicted that such a motion would be filed late last month. In the most recent motion, Brent Warr's attorney Joe Sam Owens asks the Government:
"In accord with the Discovery Order, the Government produced on Friday, February 27, 2009, three bankers boxes of documents comprising approximately 6,296 pages and advised that additional documents would be produced at the beginning of the week of March 2, 2009, and further, that additional documents were available for review. With the trial currently set for April 6, 2009, approximately five weeks from date, it would be impossible to review and digest the 6,296 pages of documents and comply with the Order of Judge Roper on the designation of expert testimony..."
The motion asks the judge to reset the trial date, which is current April 6 to a date in either July or August.
Brent Warr and his wife Laura are accused of making false statements to FEMA to get Katrina grant money. The government questions whether the family's beachfront home was the Warr's primary residence when Katrina came ashore August 29, 2005. The 16 count indictment also charges the Warrs with wire fraud and mail fraud. The couple is alleged to have filed filed claims with their insurance company that misrepresented where their personal property was then they lost it during the hurricane.
Another motion was filed by Laura Warr's defense attorney. In that motion, attorney Frank Trapp wants the government to provide more information on the false statements made to FEMA agents alleged in the indictment and who the government says were the couple's alleged co-conspirators.
"The defense is entitled to identify each such person in order to prepare a defense in the case. Moreover, the alleged participants in criminal conduct present a unique, onerous burden in preparing a defense since the government will contend such persons act(s) and statement(s) are binding on Laura Warr."
Warr said little at today's City Council meeting. He appeared tired but composed regarding the turmoil now affecting his life and that of his family. But his troubles are not very far from the minds of the City Council nor the city's residents. With his announcement that he is not seeking re-election, it is clear that his days ahead will be filled with working on his defense.
Warr Attorneys Expected to Ask for a Delay in Trial Date - GCN 2/20/09
Pretrial Hearing in Warr Case to be Held Thursday - GCN 2/18/09 Ed: Motion hearing delayed until 2/20/09
Update: 2/2/09 - A federal sealed indictment against the Warrs was issued November 6, 2008. That indictment was sealed to provide investigations additional time on the investigation. The initial indictment had 11 counts. The indictment that was opened in court January 28, 2009 has 16 counts. The additional counts deal with a matter of insurance fraud alleged in the most recent indictment, charges that were absent in the first indictment.
Update: 2/9/09 - Laura Warr has selected a separate attorney to represent her in the Katrina fraud case. It is attorney Frank Trapp of Jackson. During the initial appearance of Laura and her husband Brent Warr, the couple were represented by Gulfport Attorney Joe Sam Owen. At that time, Owen told the judge that Laura Warr would be later represented by another attorney to avoid any conflict of interest.
Federal Warr Indictment Jan. 28, 2009- .pdf file