Associated Press

JACKSON - Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. and prominent Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor were indicted Friday by a federal grand jury after a yearlong corruption investigation.

The investigation, launched last fall, centered on whether trial lawyers paid off bank loans for state judges in exchange for favorable treatment in court.

Diaz, 43, of Biloxi, is a former state lawmaker once considered among the most promising up-and-coming Republicans in the state. Mississippi judicial candidates run without party labels.

Minor, 55, a trial lawyer from Ocean Springs, made millions in several landmark cases, including one against big tobacco companies.

The indictments were announced Friday in a news release from the U.S. attorney's office in Jackson.

Others indicted were Diaz's former wife, Jennifer Diaz, and former Harrison County judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield.

Prosecutors have been investigating whether attorneys paid off loans to judges through The Peoples Bank of Biloxi and Merchants & Marine Bank in Pascagoula. They subpoenaed records from the Mississippi Supreme Court and state Court of Appeals and local courts on the coast.

Diaz was appointed to the Supreme Court in March 2000 by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. Diaz won election in November 2000 to an eight-year term that would run through January 2009. He served in the Mississippi House from 1988 to 1994, when he won a seat on the Appeals Court.

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