Former Mayor Winfield permanently disbarred

Published 10:59 am Friday, November 14, 2014

Former Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield exits the federal courthouse in Jackson in March 2013.

Former Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield exits the federal courthouse in Jackson in March 2013.

The Mississippi Supreme Court has permanently disbarred former Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield from practicing law.

The court issued its decision Thursday, nearly one year after Winfield was sentenced to 25 months in federal prison for pleading guilty to bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.

He will not be able apply for reinstatement to the bar after he is released from prison under section12c of the Rules of Discipline for the Mississippi State Bar.

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According to the rule, an attorney who has been disbarred for being convicted of a felony which occurred after April 4, 2002 and involves “interference with the administration of justice, false swearing, misrepresentation, fraud, deceit, bribery, extortion, misappropriation, theft, the sale or distribution of a controlled substance, or an attempt, conspiracy or solicitation of another to commit such a crime, shall be ineligible for reinstatement to the practice of law.”

Winfield pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Natchez on Sept. 16, 2013, to one count of bribery involving a pre-disaster cleanup contract that was never awarded. He was sentenced Nov. 19, 2013, and is serving time in a minimum-security facility in Montgomery, Ala. He will be released from custody Oct. 28, 2015, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

“It’s a very sad situation,” said North Ward Aldermen Michael Mayfield, who served on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen with the former mayor. “This is a young man who had his whole life before him. It’s going to be rough. My heart goes out to him.”

According to the Supreme Court’s order disbarring Winfield, the Mississippi Bar filed a formal complaint against Winfield on Dec. 10, 2013, after his sentencing, and Winfield did not respond to the Bar’s complaint.

Under the Mississippi Rules of Discipline, according to the order, the Supreme Court must immediately suspend lawyers who plead guilty to a felony charge other than manslaughter from practicing law. The court must also order disbarment when the lawyer’s time to appeal the criminal case expires.

“The time for appeal in Winfield’s case has passed. Because Winfield’s criminal conviction is now final, this court is required under Rule 6(d) to enter an order disbarring Winfield. … This court finds the Paul E. Winfield shall be disbarred,” according to the order.

Winfield, who was elected mayor in 2009, was arrested Feb. 20, 2013, on a complaint filed by the FBI and spent one night in the Madison County Jail before his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Jackson the following day. The case was in federal court because reimbursement for the cleanup would come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

According to the FBI’s arrest affidavit, Winfield on July 17, 2012, met a confidential FBI informant at a restaurant in Jackson, where the informant asked Winfield how much it would cost to get the city’s pre-event disaster cleanup contract.

Winfield, according to the affidavit, held up 10 fingers, signifying $10,000. He received $5,000 that night and another $2,000 in August 2012. A federal grand jury indicted him on the bribery charge on March 19, 2013.

Winfield failed in his bid for re-election as Vicksburg mayor in 2013.

A Vicksburg native, Winfield is a graduate of Warren Central High School and the University of Mississippi, where he was a defensive back on the Ole Miss Rebels football team. He holds a juris doctorate from Southern University in Baton Rouge. He attended the Executive MBA Program at Tulane University in New Orleans, but did not graduate, according to university records.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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