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Murray Man Changes Plea In Federal Wire Fraud Case

United States Department of Justice

A Murray man facing federal wire fraud charges has changed his “not guilty” plea to a lesser plea that’s not commonly used, potentially in an attempt to arrange a plea deal.


Prosecutors with the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Tennessee allege Mark Whitaker helped defraud the E-Rate program, a federal initiative that provides schools and libraries funding for telecommunications and internet access. The defense attorney representing Whitaker in an email said Whitaker’s plea was changed to “misprision of felony.”


Misprision of felony is a federal charge assigned when someone fails to report a felony and actively tries to conceal the crime. Samuel Marcosson is a professor of law at the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, teaching courses in criminal law. He said misprision of felony became a federal statute more than a century ago and is rarely used in cases. 


“It’s mostly used now in situations as the basis for a plea bargain,” Marcosson said. “One way they can reach the plea deal is say ‘OK, we’ll plea it down to misprision of felony’ which carries a lesser punishment and allows them to reach a deal and avoid a trial.”


Marcosson said the misprision of felony dates back to English Common Law, where individuals could be charged for failing to report a crime. He said if prosecutors accept pleading down to misprision of felony, the case would most likely not go to trial.

“It is so unusual, or it’s a crime so rarely seen nowadays, that I don’t even teach [misprision of felony] in my criminal law class. It’s not something that our students, even if they practice criminal law, will come across very often,” Marcosson said.

Murray businessman Chuck Jones is the other defendant in the case. An attorney for Jones filed a motion last week to not represent Jones anymore because he wasn’t paying attorney fees. Jones declined to comment. The trial is currently set for April 13.


"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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