The Associated Press reported Friday that former state Sen. Charles Walker completed his 10-year federal sentence for conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion and was to be released on probation.
Walker, now in his mid 60s, cut a wide path through the state Legislature during the 1980s and early 1990s. The Augusta Democrat was the Senate majority leader, and the first African-American to hold that position. Walker’s influence came through his position as one of the Senate’s top budget writers, and it was that role that first attracted the interest of federal prosecutors.
In 2002, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Walker’s businesses in Augusta were profiting from a $20 million economic development grant that Walker had helped steer through the General Assembly.
Federal prosecutors ultimately found much more. The indictment that formed the basis of his conviction in 2005 charged that he stole money from a charity he set up to provide scholarships to deserving youth, pressured Grady hospital to hire temps from his personnel services business and inflated circulation numbers at a newspaper he owned to collect higher advertising rates from big box stores. Walker was convicted on 127 of the 142 charges in the indictment.
He served most of his sentence in a federal prison in South Carolina before a brief stint in a half-way house in Atlanta.
Walker was a hard-charging businessman and a resilient politician, having lost re-election in 2002 but winning back his seat two years later, even with an indictment hanging over his head. No word yet on what his future plans might be.