published Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Convicted TVA contractor tries to fire attorney

A former safety manager for TVA's nuclear program tried Monday to fire his attorney as he faces a six- to eight-year prison sentence after his November conviction on eight fraud counts.

Walter Cardin, 55, told U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier he was scared Jan. 15 when he sent a letter asking the judge to revoke a previous agreement regarding his attorney, Huntsville, Ala.-based Bruce Gardner.

Last June, before his trial, federal prosecutors filed documents asking Collier to review whether Gardner representing Cardin could be a conflict of interest because Gardner was being paid by Shaw Group, Cardin's former employer.

The company also faced allegations because its employee had been involved in fraud against the government.

Cardin, of Metairie, La., told Collier in open court that Gardner had represented him since 2006 and he trusted the lawyer's work.

But on Monday, Cardin said Gardner had not returned calls and emails since the November trial, and he didn't know what to do.

Collier told Cardin there was no constitutional reason to remove Gardner, and despite Cardin's personal feelings about what his lawyer did or did not do during the trial that wasn't enough to replace Gardner.

The judge ruled also that Cardin can't now have his agreement on the potential conflict hearing revoked because the issue has ended.

"The court not only does not have a crystal ball, it does not possess a magic wand," Collier said. "What's happened in the past is in the past."

He informed Cardin that he could raise concerns about his attorney's performance on appeal or other ways but not before his sentencing.

Jurors found Cardin guilty of providing false and misleading information about injuries at the Browns Ferry, Sequoyah and Watts Bar nuclear plants between 2004 and 2006.

By falsely reporting the injuries, Cardin kept safety numbers down and helped Shaw Group collect safety bonuses of more than $2.5 million from TVA, according to court documents.

Jurors heard evidence of more than 80 injuries, which included broken bones, torn ligaments, hernias, lacerations, shoulder, back and knee injuries not recorded properly by Cardin, according to court documents.

No sentencing date has been scheduled for Cardin.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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