An Annapolis contractor has told a federal jury that he provided the U.S. Naval Academy's former public works officer with appliances, lawn mowers, gasoline, a rental car and other items, and was never repaid throughout their four-year relationship.
The contractor, Carroll R. Dunton, also testified that he bought $25,000 worth of Amway products from the officer, Capt. James E. Weston. But Dunton said he never got much of the Amway merchandise that Weston insisted he should order.
Dunton said he never asked the captain for refunds or repayments because "I didn't want to lose work at the Naval Academy," which amounted to about 90 percent of his company's business. Instead, Dunton said, he charged many of the Amway bills and other items that he bought for Weston to Navy contracts.
Dunton testified for the prosecution Friday at Weston's trial on bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
The government contends that Weston received about $34,000 in goods and services from Dunton, and that, in return, the now-retired captain helped Dunton Contracting Inc. get several lucrative government contracts.
The defense counters that Weston repaid Dunton for the appliances in cash, which Dunton demanded to feed his gambling habit.
Dunton pleaded guilty to bribery and illegal gratuities charges last year. Those charges stem from the racketeering conviction of Arthur G. Strissel Jr., the former Annapolis Housing Authority executive director, and to the Weston case. He is awaiting sentencing.
Dunton admitted on defense cross-examination that he liked to gamble, but repeatedly denied that Weston ever gave him any money for the appliances.
He also insisted that he was telling the truth on the witness stand, even though he freely admitted obstructing justice and lying to a federal grand jury in the Strissel case.
On direct examination by prosecutor Jane F. Barrett, Dunton said Eugene E. Hook, a former Weston subordinate, asked him to buy a washer and dryer for the captain's house even before Weston arrived for duty at the academy in July 1985. Dunton said he bought the appliances and expected to be repaid.
Thereafter, he said, Hook periodically came to his office and asked for such items as a trash compactor, a dishwasher, several air conditioners and two lawn mowers for Weston.
Each time, Dunton said, he bought the items and usually had them delivered to Weston's home on the academy grounds.
"He's a naval officer," Dunton said of Weston. "It didn't cross my mind that he wouldn't pay me back, until he asked for something else. Then I knew I wasn't gonna get paid back.
"Every time Gene Hook came to my office I'd shudder, because he'd tell me about something else the captain wanted."
Dunton said he ordered two Amway security systems, seven water treatment systems, a coffeemaker and coffee, two satellite dishes and numerous other Amway items from Weston.
Asked by Barrett what happened to the security systems, Dunton said he gave one to his son-in-law and kept one for himself. The one he kept, he said, "probably was stolen from my office" and the one he gave to his son-in-law "never worked right."
Dunton also said he never received much of the Amway merchandise he ordered from Weston. And he testified repeatedly, under questioning from Barrett, that "No, ma'am," Weston never gave him refunds for the items he didn't get.
The contractor said Weston also parked a recreational vehicle at Dunton's business, and put at least 262 gallons of gasoline in it from Dunton's pump there, but never offered to pay for it.
At one point, Dunton said, Weston told him he would be recommended for "preferred bidder" status at the academy, so he could get Navy jobs that were not widely advertised.
The witness said, too, that Weston once showed him a list of future academy construction contracts, but never gave him any inside information on what his bids would have to be to win them.
"It was nice to know what they anticipated doing," Dunton said, "so I could plan what to bid on."
Dunton also said that Weston visited him after the captain retired to Nevada to discuss the federal investigation at the academy, at a time when Dunton already was under investigation in the Strissel case.
The witness said Weston told him, "I'm going to say I paid you cash for all the appliances, and that you received all the Amway products."
"I said, 'You do what you have to do, and I'll do what I have to do,' " Dunton testified.