ABERDEEN – A motion to continue Mayor Maurice Howard’s embezzlement case was filed Feb. 10 in Monroe County Circuit Court, meaning he will not appear before a judge on state-level charges this court term.
Howard was indicted in October on five embezzlement charges brought forth by the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office in connection to five trips paid for by nearly $3,500 in taxpayer dollars. Investigators allege he never took the trips.
Court documents from the continuance indicate the parties in the case are in need of more time to review discovery and are not prepared to move forward with the trial yet. The motion to continue also ensures the case will be heard in a fair manner.
Howard’s name was on the Feb. 11 docket listings for the current circuit court term. The motion to continue was filed by his attorney, John Robbins of Tupelo. It was certified Feb. 9 and filed with the court the next day.
According to court documents stemming from the October grand jury indictment, the trips in question were to a Mississippi Development Authority class in Jackson totaling $424.40 and an economic development event in Saginaw, Michigan totaling $1,272.43, both in April 2017; a trip in July 2017 to Atlanta regarding a Huddle House investment totaling $1,128; a Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway conference in Point Clear, Alabama in 2017 totaling $362.90; and a trip to the Governor’s Conference in Jackson in 2017 totaling $285.20.
Howard entered a not guilty plea in December in Lee County Circuit Court to the charges.
Since the indictment was handed down, Howard has said publicly he can provide receipts to prove he took the trips.
He claimed in October, shortly after being released from the Monroe County Detention Center on a predetermined $10,000 bond, the indictments were part of a smear campaign against him as he is seeking re-election this spring.
Howard qualified as an Independent candidate, meaning he will be on the May 5 Aberdeen general election ballot. He will face the winner of April’s Democratic primaries, which is between Dr. Roderick Van Daniel, Alonzo Sykes Sr. and Toni Reece.
Mike Bunch and Cecil Belle are also running as Independents in the general election, meaning registered voters will choose between four mayoral candidates on May 5.
If Howard is convicted, it would prevent him from holding public office, on top of potential prison time and fines.