On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Ruth Miller ordered former Sen. Wayne James held without bail until his trial on public corruption charges. Her order cited "a serious risk that the defendant will not appear" in court for trial if released.
Miller’s order pointed to James’ lack of employment; his lack of current residence in the territory; his lack of an appropriate guardian; his prior history of vanishing from the territory; and his connections to foreign countries.
James was arrested in late June in Nonantola, Italy, and extradited to the U.S. Virgin Islands in August for trial on federal corruption charges. Elected to one term in 2008, James was a V.I. senator on St. Croix from January 2009 to January 2011. He is charged with misusing public funds. The court appointed James a public defender on Aug. 25.
A 2011 V.I. Inspector General report found an array of misuse of taxpayer funds. It recounted how an unnamed senator, presumably James, received 12 cash advance checks totaling $93,914 in 2009 as payment to the Danish National Archives for research, scanning, reproduction and translation of historic documents. While the report did not mention James by name, James held a press conference announcing his research findings from his visits to the Danish National Archives, leaving little doubt who the senator in question was. (See: Wayne James Unearths New Info on ‘Fireburn’ in Related Links below)
According to the audit, the senator never submitted any receipts or invoices and never provided copies of the documents: one of the 12 checks was for $27,636. When asked about the advances, James said some of the cash is in safe deposit boxes outside of the territory.
An Italian paper, the Gazzetti di Modena, reported that before moving to Nonantola, James lived in Pisa, where, in 2010, he sponsored the Montescudaio amateur football team. He was apparently writing a book about "Manly Manners" and researching the famed balsamic vinegar of Modena.
James’ connection to the wine-producing city of Montescudaio, Italy, dates back to some travel to Italy while a senator. That travel, on the V.I. taxpayer dime, was questioned by some at the time. In 2010, the USVI signed a "twin-city" agreement with Montescudaio officials that James spearheaded, promising trade and tourism.
In 2010, James told the Source the Montescudaio relationship sprang from a series of discussions starting in March 2009, when Montescudaio’s mayor, Aurelio Pellegrini, extended the invitation to James through a mutual friend. That year, James visited Montescudaio where, as guest of Pellegrini, he was goodwill ambassador at a series of gatherings, from a tribute to the American soldiers who died during the liberation of Montescudaio on June 30, 1944, to winery tours to meetings with the village’s municipal council.
James introduced a resolution to the Legislature to formalize the relationship and Pellegrini introduced a similar initiative to secure the relationship under Italian law. Both were approved, formalizing the relationship.
James has denied the charges. A trial date has yet to be scheduled.