Charles Walker released from prison

By: Staff Email
By: Staff Email

Charles Walker (Photo: Champ Walker's Facebook)

Charles Walker (Photo: Champ Walker's Facebook)

Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013

GEORGIA (WRDW) -- A former state senator is getting out of prison in time for the holidays.

News 12's Ryan Houston talked with Charles Walker, who confirmed he is being released to a transitional facility. We are working to find out which facility Walker is being moved to.

A jury convicted Walker, who served Georgia's State Senate for years, in 2005 on tax evasion, mail fraud and conspiracy charges. A judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Walker has appealed the conviction and sentencing multiple times since then, but wasn't able to win the appeal.

Walker said he feels good about being able to get out of prison so close to the holidays.

In 2007, News 12's Richard Rogers spoke with Walker at the federal prison in Estill.

At that time, he said for each day he was in prison he wanted to add two days back by staying mentally and physically healthy.

Twenty months in, Walker said he started writing a book called "The 32 Rules of Life."

He shared two of the rules with News 12: "You can't catch a fish watching the other man's line. Most people spend time watching what others are doing. If you want to change your own life, you must put your line into the pond. Get involved and do not expect the fruit from someone else's labor to end up on your table.

The early bird gets the worm, but it's the second rat that gets the cheese out of the trap," he said.

In 2007, Walker said he had no plans to get back into politics because "that's what got [him] in jail."

Here's the full transcript from the 2007 interview. Rogers' questions are in bold.

I'm doing good. I miss my family, my friends in Augusta. Mentally, I'm doing fine. I've adopted a healthy routine that I believe is preserving my body and my mind.

Tell me about that routine.

We have to get up at 6 a.m.. I do my chores in the barracks, then I'm free to start my routine of morning prayer, reading and at 12 noon I go to the gym and engage in weight lifting and aerobics in order to maintain my health.

Are you in better health here than before?

I believe I'm heading for a healthier lifestyle, healthier here than I had at home because I did not take the time, except to play golf. My strategy is simple; for every one day I do in here, I'm trying to add 2 days back on the end of my life, and I can do that by maintaining a healthy attitude and maintaining a strong body.

What about the afternoon?

You have lunch, three hours a day in the law library- then back to the track and walk four miles a day- every day after dinner.

And in the evening?

I watch the evening news and the local news out of Savannah. I'm also doing lots of writing on a new book called "The 32 Rules of Life."

Give me an example of some of the "Rules of Life"

You can't catch a fish watching the other man's line. Most people spend time watching what others are doing. If you want to change your own life, you must put your line into the pond. Get involved and do not expect the fruit from someone else's labor to end up on your table.

Here's another one- the early bird gets the worm, but it's the second rat that gets the cheese out of the trap.

How long have you been here now?

Twenty months so far. A long damn time.

What's the hardest part?

The separation from my family. Visiting times are a treasure. Generally someone in my family has been here to see me every week. I have never had a week without visitors. That weekly visitation is the foundation of my strength. They happen in this room here. Friday 5 to 9, Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 3 .p.m. That's my connection to the world.

What do you want to say to the people back in Augusta?

I want to say first of all, I am innocent. I consider myself a political prisoner and I will continue to fight for vindication. In any event, I believe the sentence in this case is excessive, cruel and inhumane.

How strong is your case?

So far, I have not had great luck in convincing the appeals court in my favor. Remember, I've only filed one appeal to the 11th Circuit. It was futility to file an appeal with Judge (Dudley) Bowen- you know he wasn't going to reverse himself.

The appeals court, in its denial, failed to recognize the full court's precedent in this case. That means if you strike a person- as long as your motive is not racial, that strike must be allowed to stand. So the appeals court ruled the judge, Dudley Bowen must have thought my lawyers were lying, not credible, for giving reasons for striking those four white jurors. However the record does not support the district court's decision.

They ruled it was the judge's decision- that he made a decision the lawyers were not genuine. The courts are giving the judge wide discretion and we're saying he's not entitled to that discretion. The (appeals) court sees it my way, all the way down to the ruling. The jury selection will get you a new trial. If either of those four stricken jurors were put back on improperly, the law requires me to get a new trial.

How hopeful are you?

I believe I have an uphill fight and at this level it is very, very, very difficult to win. However, every once in a while 'a blind squirrel will find a nut'... that's another one of my rules. My hopes rest in the Supreme Court. If the 11th Circuit doesn't reverse itself, I'm going to the Supreme Court.

What about your chances with the Supreme Court?

I think the Supreme Court is the last bastion of justice in this country. I believe the Supreme Court does not play politics with the lives of American citizens.

Why do you consider yourself a political prisoner?

Because that's what I am. I was selected to be prosecuted. Selected by Rick Thompson, the former U.S. Attorney for the Augusta district. It was purely political. I was selected along with House Speaker Terry Coleman, Senator Van Street and (former Governor) Roy Barnes. We're all on the same list.

They started their investigation for political corruption and when that failed they went to the charity-- the CSRA Classic that I created and funded. The fact is that this is the only charge I was acquitted of- income tax evasion. The jury acquitted me of that. There was no wrongdoing whatsoever with the CSRA Classic. None.

So what happened to the others on that list?

None of them are in federal prison. They fired Rick Thompson, but the investigation against me continued.

You were found guilty of 127 counts.

Those 127 counts are invoices. The Augusta Focus is the only newspaper prosecuted in the history of America. It's a little weekly newspaper. And they prosecuted me and gave me 10 years because they say I allowed my employees to overstate the readership of the newspaper. You have the Chicago Tribune and New York Times and many others have publicly stated they overstated readership, but The Augusta Focus is the only one prosecuted because they couldn't find anything else.

At MCG, Gerald Woods told the jury he did not know the Walker family owned The Augusta Focus. Therefore selling ads to MCG was fraudulent. They advertised eight times over 25 years. Ads were $220 dollars. Even as a legislator, you're allowed up to $250 before you have to report it. Then, every invoice put in the mail is considered fraud. All those counts are bills from The Focus to an advertiser. That's my crime- that's why I'm doing 10 years. We didn't inflate the numbers, we used industry standards. All newspapers use a multiple based on how many they print a day. Five thousand copies times 4.5 equals readership. TV stations use households. So many per household equals viewership.

Are you willing to admit to any wrongdoing?

In my mind, I'm innocent. I didn't make money from the CSRA Classic. I freely admit The Focus prints 5,000 copies and we told advertisers we have a readership of 20 thousand (using the multiple of 4.5 industry standard). At the Medical College of Georgia, everybody in Augusta knew my family owned The Augusta Focus.

Grady Hospital- the woman who said I held up a bill recanted on the stand. It was HB785 to force Grady to do business with me. I never held up any bill, but when the jury has been seated, I never had a chance. That charge should have been dropped.

Best case scenario- you win your appeal and you're released. Will you get back into politics?

Not necessarily. I don't think so. I'm 59 years old and I need to spend time with my family and my grandchildren. I will always have some influence in a subtle way- as long as I live. That's my personality. But I have no plans to get back into politics. That's what got me in jail.
Have any of your political friends come to see you here?

Roy's been to see me. Roy Barnes. The (former) Chairman of the Democratic Party, Bobby Kahn. Lowell Greenbaum is coming back to see me week after next. I just feel blessed. Once you are not in a position to help them, most so called 'friends' head for the hills.
Lets talk about Augusta's clout in Atlanta.

Based on what I've been reading, it's at an all time low. The major reason is a shift in the political balance. Most are Democrats working in a Republican environment.

What do you think of Governor Sonny Perdue?

Not much. He worked for me when I was Senate Majority Leader. He's a mile wide and an inch deep. Augusta has no clout in terms of budget considerations. For 32 years Augusta had someone on the Budget Conference Committee back to Tom Allgood and me. We had Jack Connell in the House.

I was one of six people who decided the budget for the entire state- a senior member of the Budget Conference Committee. Those people decide what the next budget is. I put a million dollars into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame from ANIC (Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corporation) and $500,000 for the Discovery Center. MCG got 26 million a year now they get less than 10 million in supplements and they could provide indigent care.

What about the MCG expansion into Athens?

This is not the first time the MCG/Athens expansion has been brought up. In 1988 when Roy Barnes was first elected governor the Board of Regents brought that to the House and Senate leadership. I informed them that MCG was off the table. That's when we decided to break the hospital away from the medical college in 2000. Now the hospital is profitable and the medical college is a state institution.

I would have supported expanding MCG in Augusta, not Athens. That's a bad move.

In 10 years, Athens will have a full medical school---full fledged and independent with its own dean and under the University of Georgia. The plan has already been drafted and is ready to roll.

The Augusta area has seen three of its elected officials convicted of federal crimes- you, Robin Williams and Linda Schrenko. Do you feel like that's an unfair comparison?

I don't see any comparison in the cases. No one accused me of stealing state or federal money, period.

I understand Robin is here in this same facility.

I see Robin all the time- we don't talk every day. He's in one building and I'm in another. I'm in E, he's in F. Sometimes I see him in the cafeteria. I see him on the track every day. He walks more than I do.

So, if the appeals fail, you have about 6 more years here. How do you handle that?

I'll get out in 2012 or 2013. It depends on whether you get sent to a halfway house or not. You simply have no choice. You either live or die. I could sit around and feel sorry for myself or I can fight like hell to get my ass out of here. And I'll tell you something, I AM going to get outta here.

Tell me about your faith.

Through faith, I am able to sustain myself. There is a larger reason for my being here, but I haven't figured it out yet.

Are you a spiritual person?

I'm more spiritual than...evangelical. You have to have a strong faith and believe in a higher power. The devil plays a big role in your daily life. Hell, the devil makes things happen too- and he's been busy hitting me across the head with a sledge hammer (laughing) ... he and his boys.

And now you have Alan Dershowitz on your team.

He handles about eight cases a year from Harvard University. He's going to take my case to the Supreme Court. He's going to tear them up.


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