Mike Killian's guilty plea postponed

Mike Killian's guilty plea postponed

May 10th, 2013 by Todd South in Local Regional News

James "Mike" Killian, former mayor of South Pittsburg, Tenn., exits the Joel Solomon Federal Building with supporters where he was scheduled to appear before the judge on a federal gambling charge. Prosecutors allege Killian ran an online sports betting and video poker machine business in multiple locations for years while mayor.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

After more than 30 minutes of back-and-forth questioning between a local federal judge and a Washington, D.C.-based prosecutor, the judge made a suggestion.

U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier told Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Angehr that it might be helpful to consult with local attorneys, maybe even his experienced counterparts Lee Davis and Mike Little, who represent the defendants in a federal gambling hearing.

Collier asked Angehr how much time he might need.

"I'd like a half-hour. I'd like to discuss this with my section head," Angehr replied.

"How about a month?" Collier not-so-subtly recommended.

What was to be a routine re-arraignment in which former South Pittsburg, Tenn., Mayor Mike Killian and his co-defendant, Robert Barry Cole, were scheduled to plead guilty to one count of illegal gambling each now has been postponed until Aug. 22.

The Washington prosecutor was handling the case because Mike Killian is the brother of U.S. Attorney Bill Killian, who has recused his office from the case to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

Angher works in the U.S. Justice Department's public integrity section, which handles cases involving public officials and corruption.

Mike Killian was charged shortly after FBI agents raided his Lotto Mart convenience store in South Pittsburg on Jan. 15. Agents also searched the Lil Store at 3644 Valley View Highway in Sequatchie, Tenn., and Richard City Food Market at 308 19th St., Richard City, Tenn., on Jan. 15.

Cole was charged shortly afterward.

Prosecutors allege Cole helped Killian run a separate online sports betting operation.

Court documents show that from 2002 until 2012 the gambling operations on some occasions garnered $2,000 daily.

Killian was South Pittsburg mayor from 2005 until 2012.

During Thursday's hearing, Collier had concerns about a blanket plea agreement that conflicted with local rules in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee.

Those problems included a waiver of rights to appeal, a probable cause standard used for admitting guilt and a term within the plea deal that listed the proposed sentencing range for Killian and Cole at one year to 18 months.

Under the plea agreement Cole would forfeit $19,000 seized at his South Pittsburg home.

Each man faces penalties that include up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, restitution and forfeiture of assets.

Contact staff writer Todd South at 423-757-6347 or tsouth@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.