Donald C. Smaltz, Independent Counsel In Re Espy, today made the following statement:
A federal grand jury in Biloxi, Mississippi, returned a three count
indictment against Norris Faust, Jr., the current Mississippi State Executive Director of
the Farm Service Agency (FSA), a division of the United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA). Faust is charged with three counts of lying to a federal grand jury sitting in
Jackson on August 28 and 29, 1996.
Faust, 46, and a native of Lambert, Mississippi, was appointed to the
position of State Executive Director of FSA on March 8, 1993. Prior to that time Faust has
served as a County Supervisor from Tunica County, Mississippi.
The indictment charges that Faust gave perjurious testimony before
the federal grand jury regarding his knowledge of and role in changing a state regulation
requiring the reporting of persons listed on farm operating plans who had outside
interests other than the farming operation. The questions asked of Faust also focused on
the role of two others in striking down the regulation: Brooke Keith Mitchell, Sr., a 1993
appointee to the State Executive Committee, and the Chief of Staff to former Secretary of
Mitchell was convicted on November 13, 1996, in United States
District Court in the District of Columbia of fraudulently collecting more than $700,000
in crop subsidies from the USDA. Mitchell and his farming company, Five M Farming
Enterprises entered guilty pleas to four counts of conspiracy, making false statements to
obtain farm deficiency payments, making false statements to the USDA and submitting false
entries in books and records.
The indictment returned against Faust today alleges that Mitchell had
been in a dispute with USDA regarding the extent of the involvement of his sons, who were
full-time college students, in the family farm business. While Mitchell was seeking to
recover the payments denied to him, Faust in his capacity as Mississippi State Executive
Director, signed an order eliminating the regulation which would have required Mitchell's
sons to disclose that they were students.
If convicted of the charges in the indictment, Faust could be
imprisoned for up to 15 years and fined as much as $750,000 or both.
An arraignment date will be scheduled as soon as possible before the
United States Magistrate Judge in Jackson, Mississippi.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and
the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The Independent Counsel's investigation is ongoing.
NOTE: Copies of the Indictment are available from the Office of Independent Counsel.