(Former Corrections Commissioner Chris) Epps and his alleged partner in the bribery scheme, former state lawmaker Cecil McCrory, pleaded not guilty Thursday in a 20-minute hearing before U.S. Magistrate Keith Ball in U.S. District Court in Jackson. Ball set a Jan. 5 trial date and released each on $25,000 unsecured bond. Both men declined to comment to reporters.

Hours after that hearing, Gov. Phil Bryant ordered the Corrections Department to rebid contracts with all companies mentioned in the indictment, though none of the businesses or their employees were charged. It was unclear if other people or entities were being investigated.

Spokesman Knox Graham said Thursday that Bryant instructed interim Corrections Commissioner Richard McCarty to stop negotiations with Utah-based Management and Training Corp. over renewing a $60-million-a-year contract to manage prisons holding more than 4,000 inmates and seek new proposals.

MTC will keep running Marshall County Correctional Facility, East Mississippi Correctional Facility, Walnut Grove Correctional Facility and Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in the meantime.

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