JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A lawyer appointed to oversee the inheritance of a civil rights leader’s grandson has been sentenced in Mississippi to serve 30 years in prison for using hundreds of thousands of dollars for himself.
Attorney Michael Brown was sentenced Aug. 29 in Rankin County to 40 years, with 10 suspended, on two counts of embezzlement related to the estate left to the grandson of late civil rights leader Aaron Henry.
Brown, 56, of Rankin County, represented himself during the four-day trial. He remains incarcerated and was not available for comment Thursday. A telephone call to the sheriff’s office was not immediately returned.
Henry, a former state legislator who led the state NAACP for more than 30 years, died in 1997 at the age of 74, leaving his estate to his only daughter, Rebecca. She died in 2000, with her estate going to her two sons, Rankin County District Attorney Michael Guest said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Guest said a guardianship was set up in Hinds County in 2000 for Henry’s grandson, Demon McClinton, who was a minor at the time.
Brown was under court order to use the funds strictly for the benefit of the child, but he put the money in his personal escrow account, spending some of it on five cars over a period of several weeks in 2001 and investing $550,000 in a cemetery, Guest said.
Rankin County brought criminal charges because the checks for the Lakeland Place Garden Cemetery investment were written in the county, Guest said. Brown faces additional charges in Hinds County, where Guest said other fraudulent transactions occurred.
Brown closed the guardianship in 2006 after spending $1.2 million and then filed fraudulent paperwork with the Hinds County Chancery court to make it appear the money was properly spent for the benefit of McClinton, Guest said.
The estate was reopened in 2011 when Hinds County Chancellor Dewayne Thomas held a series of hearings that uncovered the fraud, Guest said.
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Inheritance guardian sentenced for embezzlement