Tex McIver pleads not guilty in wife’s murder

Prosecutors on Tuesday suggested Claud “Tex” McIver, the prominent Atlanta attorney accused of killing his wife, is trying to influence the murder case against him from behind bars.

Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker said authorities recorded three recent phone calls by McIver from jail. In one, he speaks about providing a car to a potential witness and in another soliciting a favor from a judge.

“He’s a very smart man and he is very well-connected,” Rucker said of the former Republican donor and vice chairman of the state Board of Elections. “He has the financial resources to reach out to people who can have influence over what happens to him.”

Rucker made the accusations during McIver’s arraignment on charges that he murdered his business executive wife. Diane McIver, while they were driving near Piedmont Park last September. McIver pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Much of the hearing focused on whether McIver should be released from jail on bond. McIver has been in jail for 42 days following the discovery of a pistol in a sock drawer of his Buckhead condo, a violation of his prior bond release.

MORE: Five things to know about the Tex McIver murder indictment

RELATED: Tex McIver says shooting his wife was an accident

The formerly sharp-dressed attorney appeared disheveled as he walked into the courtroom in a blue jail uniform, his hands cuffed in front of him. His gray hair looked unkempt and he had a short, stubby beard.

Rucker argued that McIver’s calls from jail showed a disrespect for the rule of law, and that he should not be granted bond. No charges have been filed against McIver in connection with the jail phone calls.

McIver’s attorney William Hill said Rucker had taken what was said during the calls out of context.

Judge Robert McBurney withheld judgment on the bond, saying he wanted to hear the recordings of the phone calls before making up his mind. That decision could come as early as Wednesday.

McIver has said he shot his wife accidentally. Prosecutors have charged the 74-year-old attorney with malice murder, felony murder, possession of a weapon and three counts of attempting to influence witnesses.

The arraignment marked an important moment in what has become a widely watched drama centering on wealth, class and race. The prosecution of McIver has now commenced in earnest, and prosecutors said they could be ready for a trial by mid-September.

Hill said McIver does not represent a risk of flight, or influencing witnesses, or a danger to anyone.

“He’s already served 42 days,” Hill said. “If there’s a lesson to be learned, he’s learned his lesson.”

Rucker detailed the calls but did not play them for the packed courtroom, which included numerous media, in Fulton County Superior Court.

Rucker said McIver had called his sister, Dixie, to discuss providing a vehicle to James Hugh, a former employee of the McIvers who washed their cars and ran errands.

He also called Anne Schwall, the former wife of Fulton Judge Craig Schwall, Rucker said. The McIvers were the godparents of the Schwalls’ young son, Austin. Rucker suggested that McIver asked her to reach out to her ex-husband.

Rucker said McIver told her, “All he needs to do is make a phone call. I can be out of here the next day.”

After the hearing, Hill criticized Rucker’s characterization of the calls. He said McIver was just trying to do something nice for Hugh, a man who, Hill said, had little if any power to help McIver.

McIver, he added, was “just venting, not influencing” during his talk with Anne Schwall. And McIver, he said, knew that Judge Schwall would never be so unprofessional as to intervene to help him in the case.

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