Grace shackled, cries before judge denies bail
BATON ROUGE - George Grace had just 15 minutes to say goodbye to his family before U.S. Marshals hauled him back to prison. Judge Maurice Hicks called Grace's words "slippery at best" and said George Grace has "zero credibility" after committing perjury during his trial. It was one reason Hicks said he had a hard time believing Grace's promises not to skip town if Grace was allowed out on bail before his sentencing.
Grace was convicted on seven of 13 federal corruption charges Saturday, including racketeering, bribery, mail and wire fraud charges. The judge did not allow Grace to walk free because prosecutors were concerned Grace might flee to Uganda.
The judge said no to allowing Grace out on bond, despite his family's pleas to do so. Grace's estranged wife, Joyce, was choked up as she looked at Grace for the first time since his conviction.
"Takes some getting used to, doesn't it?" Hicks asked Joyce as she took the stand. "Yes," she replied, before she told the judge she was willing to put up her home for collateral on Grace's bond, even though the two have been separated for eight and a half years and no longer live together. The collateral, family members promised, would show their faith that there is no way Grace would flee the country.
Joyce sobbed before she left the courtroom when Grace took the stand. He donned a bright orange and white striped jumpsuit, covered in shackles over his hands and feet. The chains were locked tightly with a padlock. A U.S. Marshal was never a few feet from Grace's every move.
Grace was choked up as he pleaded for just a few more days of freedom.
"If I'm released, I would take that time and try to spend as much time with my family as I could." Grace looked down and choked back tears, adding, "I would be here on July 2."
July 2 was Grace's original sentencing date.
Grace told the judge he would not flee the area because of his deep family ties to St. Gabriel. He also said he spent all his money paying for his attorneys.
"I don't have anything else," Grace said, pausing and looking down.
Prosecutor Corey Amundson asked Grace if he had three Ugandan wives, a three-year-old child he fathered in Uganda, and property on the luxurious Ugandan island of Ssese near Lake Victoria. Grace denied all three, saying "If I said that, I was probably just telling tales."
Grace admitted he has $10,000 in a Ugandan bank account. Grace also said he still has ties with Ugandan political leaders.
It's one reason the judge denied Grace to be released on bond. Even an ankle tracker, Hicks said, may not be enough to keep Grace from fleeing to a place where he could be lucrative to people there.
"An electronic monitor would simply show he's gone," Amundson told the judge, adding it even a convicted felon like Grace could obtain a new passport at the passport office in New Orleans. FBI Special Agent Maurice Hattier, Jr. testified an fee to expedite the passport would make the process as shot as an hour.
There is no expedition treaty with Uganda, Hicks said.
Grace's sentencing hearing will be moved from July 2 because of scheduling conflicts with Grace's attorneys. Hicks has not yet set that date.