Presley pleads guilty in scheme

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 4, 1999

AP and staff reports

Former Jackson County Chancery Clerk Lynn Presley pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy, money laundering and extortion shortly before jury selection was to begin in U.S. District Court in Natchez.

Presley, 51, is set to be sentenced Jan. 10 and could receive up to 45 years in prison and up to a $1 million fine. Presley was charged in connection with an alleged $1.47 million kickback scheme involving county contracts.

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It is not yet clear whether Presley, who is being held in the Adams County Jail, will now testify against remaining defendants Donald Hearn Sr., former Jackson County land appraiser, and Hearn’s son, Donald Hearn Jr.

The Hearns’ trial, which is set to resume at 9 a.m. today, began Monday with jury selection in the morning and opening statements and the hearing of motions in the afternoon.

Earl Denham, attorney for Donald Hearn Sr., requested a mistrial, saying that Ruth Morgan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office had prematurely implied the Hearns were involved in the bid process. Denham also objected to some posters used in the opening phase of the trial. Judge David Bramlette denied the motion.

Bramlette also denied a motion by Donald Hearn Jr.’s attorney, Calvin Taylor, to delay his client’s trial until a later date. Taylor said he had not been notified in advance of Presley’s intention to plead guilty.

Federal authorities said Presley abused his authority as chancery clerk by influencing Main Line Corp. to hire a company owned by the Hearns. Main Line had a $3 million county contract to establish a records management system.

According to a federal indictment, the Hearns owned a company, Associated Services, that illegally received more than $800,000 to computerize county land records. The indictment also said the Hearns secretly owned another company, Internal Logistic Services, which illegally received $142,000 to provide the same services. It also said the Hearns opened the company and its bank account in the Cayman Islands.

Presley, who is serving a 10-year sentence in state prison for embezzling public funds, received $655,000 in the kickback scheme, according to an indictment.

Donald Hearn Sr., 51, faces one count of conspiracy, one count of money laundering conspiracy, two counts of money laundering and one count of extortion. If convicted, he could serve up to 85 years in prison and be fined up to $2 million. Donald Hearn Jr., 26, is charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of money laundering conspiracy and two counts of money laundering. If convicted, he could face up to 65 years in jail and a $1.75 million fine.

The Hearns have been out on bond since their arraignment in July.