Coleman pleads guilty

Published 12:01 am Thursday, November 1, 2007

NATCHEZ — James Coleman, indicted on charges of 16 counts of embezzlement, pleaded guilty to two counts Wednesday. The remaining counts were dropped.

Coleman, who oversaw payroll at Mississippi River Corp., allegedly doled out more money than was due to other MRC employees. Coleman was among 17 indicted in connection with the embezzlement.

The employees were “hardworking individuals who were having economic stress,” Coleman told Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson Wednesday.

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When Johnson asked him how much money he received out of the situation, Coleman at first said none.

“If someone gave me funds, I didn’t keep it,” Coleman said.

After District Attorney Ronnie Harper said evidence would show Coleman received money in return, Johnson asked Coleman again.

“You got some of the money, were splitting the money?” he asked.

Coleman said yes.

Harper said Coleman and other employees embezzled more than $604,000.

Johnson asked Coleman how much he received out of the deal and how much other employees received.

Coleman said since he did not have the records in front of him, he did not know.

Since other related embezzlement charges are pending, Johnson said he would delay sentencing until those issues were resolved.

“The court would feel more confident delaying sentencing so it can be sorted out,” he said.

As part of the plea agreement, Coleman will participate with law enforcement and prosecution should any of the other embezzlement charges go to trial.

Coleman will remain out on $80,000 bond until his sentencing.

After his August indictment, Coleman resigned from the Natchez-Adams School Board and the city’s civil service commission.