March 4, 1998 in Nation/World

Appeals Postpone Espy’s Corruption Trial

Associated Press

The trial of former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy on charges of accepting illegal gratuities from companies he regulated and then lying about it has been postponed indefinitely.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina, in an order signed last month but not made public until Tuesday, said Espy’s trial must await the outcome of two appeals related to his case. The trial was to begin March 30.

“The outcome of these (appeals) will likely have an influence on the content of the prosecution and defense of this case,” Urbina said.

One appeal involves Urbina’s previous decision to dismiss four counts of the original 39-count indictment against Espy. Three of those charges were brought under meat inspection laws that were written to prevent rank-and-file Agriculture Department inspectors from accepting gifts from processors.

Independent counsel Donald C. Smaltz is seeking to get those charges reinstated, arguing that the law should apply equally to the agriculture secretary.

Espy’s attorneys argued in asking for a delay that the trial shouldn’t go forward with that question unresolved.

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