Warnock trial may proceed as planned

Warnock trial may proceed as planned


The federal trial against Rudy Warnock, which has been continued nearly a dozen times, may well be headed to trial as scheduled on Aug. 5, after a co-defendant in the case will retain his current lawyer at the expense of the court. 

Warnock was indicted in 2021 on federal bribery and wire fraud charges in connection with his work at Canton Municipal Utilities. Former CMU Chairman Cleveland Anderson, along with Canton aldermen Eric Gilkey and Andrew Grant, were also indicted. 

Warnock has pleaded not guilty on the charges, with the other three initially pleading guilty. Anderson later told the judge he did nothing wrong so his not guilty plea was revoked and he was scheduled to stand trial with Warnock. 

At a status conference held earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate ordered Anderson to file for a Criminal Justice Act attorney after telling the court he could not pay for private counsel. 

Anderson retained Damon Stevenson, a Jackson attorney, after the indictments were unsealed but sought new counsel. 

At the status conference, Stevenson said he could represent Anderson as the CJA attorney if the court deemed it appropriate — which they did last week.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew S. Harris approved Anderson’s CJA application and appointed Stevenson as the attorney. 

“Having reviewed Anderson’s financial affidavit, the Court finds he is entitled to appointed counsel at this time,” Harris wrote in his order. “And given Stevenson’s ‘familiarity with the case, the importance of continuity of representation, and the potential for delay if new counsel is appointed,’ the Court concludes that appointing Stevenson as CJA counsel furthers the interests of justice.”

At the status conference, Judge Wingate kept focusing on the Aug. 5 scheduled trial date despite one of Warnock’s attorneys submitting they would be in Europe on airport commission business. 

Tommy Spina of Birmingham, Ala., is co-counsel with John Colette of Jackson, with the pair representing Warnock. 

Spina sits on the Birmingham Airport Authority, which is scheduled to attend the 2024 Farnborough Air Show in London July 22-26, according to the BAA board minutes. 

According to a motion to continue filed in May and later terminated, Colette said that Spina “has a trip to Europe for the Airport Board Authority from July 18, 2024 to August 4, 2024.”

There was a request for a September trial at the time. At the status conference, the U.S. Attorneys Office said due to the addition of new trials on the docket if the trial were to be continued it would have to be after October. 

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.

Anderson and the others were indicted on bribery charges.

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