Jury at impasse in fraud trial

Panel deadlocked on 12 of 22 counts, will convene 4th day

July 14, 2000|By Thomas W. Waldron and Greg Garland | Thomas W. Waldron and Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

The federal jury in the mail-fraud case of state Del. Tony E. Fulton and lobbyist Gerard E. Evans will continue deliberating in Baltimore for a fourth day today after declaring yesterday it was deadlocked on more than half the charges.

The weary-looking panel of seven women and five men emerged yesterday afternoon to inform the court that it had reached verdicts on 10 of the 22 charges against Fulton and Evans, but could not reach unanimous decisions on the other dozen.

"We have reached a verdict on 10 counts. We are hung on 12 counts," the jury said in a note sent to U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz. "We feel this is the best we can do."

Fulton and Evans are each charged with the same 11 counts of mail and wire fraud in an alleged scheme to generate fees for Evans by misleading some of the lobbyist's clients. The jury did not say which counts against which defendant it had resolved.

After a discussion with the lawyers in the case about whether to accept a partial verdict, Motz instructed the jury to continue deliberating and asked the panel to stay at least 30 minutes beyond its usual quitting time of 4:30 p.m. "We know how hard you have been working," Motz told the jury. "I've decided to ask you to work some more."

Within minutes of leaving the courtroom, the panel sent a note from the jury room informing the parties that the members were departing for the evening.

Lawyers in the case declined to speculate about what the news of a partial verdict might mean. "Anybody's guess is as good as anybody else's," said Robert C. Bonsib, the lawyer for Evans.

The jury's note to the judge, which was delivered about 3 p.m., sent lawyers scrambling for law books to find case law governing a judge's ability to accept partial verdicts.

Motz indicated that he was considering asking the jury for its partial findings, but lawyers could not agree on whether the judge could then instruct the jury to return to deliberate on the remaining 12 charges, a position favored by prosecutors.

"It seems to make a lot of practical sense" to hear the partial verdict, Motz said. "But it's fraught with a lot of [legal] difficulties."

Motz could opt to accept a partial verdict and declare a mistrial on unresolved counts.

The judge said that before he did that, he would likely deliver a last-ditch speech instructing jurors to reassess their positions in light of arguments made by jurors with opposing views.

The month-long trial produced more than 30 witnesses and 300 exhibits, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dale P. Kelberman argued that 2 1/2 days was not an "inordinate" amount of time to deliberate.

Evans and Fulton are charged with concocting the threat of legislation aimed at paint and asbestos companies represented by Evans to scare them into hiring the lobbyist to battle the bill.

Between 1997 and 1999, the period covered by the indictment, Evans received $400,000 in fees from the companies, even though the liability bill he said was imminent was not introduced.

The 11 counts center on mailings or faxes between Evans and paint companies he represented. Although there is no evidence that Fulton was involved in sending or receiving the documents, prosecutors asserted that his role in the scheme makes him equally culpable. Fulton has denied taking part in any scheme to help Evans with his clients.

Evans also has denied doing anything illegal, testifying that he believed the State House intelligence he shared with clients to be accurate at the time.

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