With a trial date in October approaching, the defense attorney for former Sen. Wayne James said Wednesday that he would be asking to file a motion for continuance of the case, even though District Court Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller said all the deadlines had already passed.
During a pre-trial hearing in V.I. District Court, Miller told St. Croix attorney Michael Joseph that he would have to file any motions immediately after Wednesday’s hearing, which Joseph said he would do. Otherwise Wednesday’s hearing was brief, with prosecutors saying that they had already assembled all the evidence they would need to proceed with trial.
Prosecutors said they would also need to know if a new trial date would be scheduled since they are anticipating appearances from witnesses that would have to be flown in.
James is currently being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal prison in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Because he wasn’t in court, no decision was made Wednesday on James being released into the custody of a third party; instead, another hearing was set for next Wednesday, when James is expected to be in the territory.
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.
At this point, James has denied all charges. Prosecutors said Wednesday that a plea agreement has been offered but no one released the details of the offer.