Coleman trial is delayed 3rd time

New date April 8 for ex-stockbroker charged with fraud

January 15, 2002|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

For the third time in five months, the state jury trial of former stockbroker Monica L. Coleman was postponed yesterday after last-minute legal maneuverings.

Coleman, 45, did not appear yesterday in Baltimore City Circuit Court, where her jury trial was expected to start at 9:30 a.m.

Coleman was indicted Jan. 3, 2001, on 15 counts of securities fraud, felony theft and misappropriating $2.6 million of her clients' money after the collapse of her investment house, Coleman Craten LLC. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.

"Where is your client?" Judge Allen L. Schwait asked Coleman's attorney, Jeffrey G. Kinstler, an assistant public defender.

"That is a good question, Your Honor," Kinstler replied. He explained that Friday evening, Robert M. Bell, chief judge of the Court of Appeals for Baltimore, stayed the trial and all proceedings pending a review of another judge's decision.

After yesterday's midmorning hearing, Kinstler said he was not surprised that Coleman was not there. Bell's order "could be interpreted as having canceled everything this morning," Kinstler said.

Schwait, who seemed surprised by the development, said, "We are not in the habit of people not just coming." Schwait ordered Coleman to appear in Administrative Court by 11:30 a.m. before Judge Stuart R. Berger.

Coleman arrived out of breath with her husband, Richard Coleman. Berger set a new trial date for April 8 at the hearing, which lasted about five minutes.

Eileen McInerney, the assistant state attorney general prosecuting the case, said she had no objections to the new date.

When asked by The Sun to comment about the case, Coleman declined.

The new date gives Coleman's attorneys more time to prepare for a case marked by its complexity. Late last week, Kinstler told Berger that he and an associate needed more time to prepare for the case. He said they had not had enough time to go through 65 boxes of documents.

"We have reviewed some, but not all of them," Kinstler told Berger. "I am not even holding in hand documents necessary to the defense of this case."

He also said that he should not continue to represent Coleman because she has moved to "fire" them and has hired new attorneys, former Gov. Marvin Mandel and Robert H. Waldman. All the attorneys appeared in hearings Thursday and Friday before Berger to convince him to postpone yesterday's scheduled trial.

Those hearings led to Bell's decision Friday evening to stay the trial.

In testimony before Berger at Friday's hearing, Coleman said that her court-appointed attorneys "simply do not have time to delve into ... this case."

Kinstler said Coleman has money to hire her own attorneys. Coleman, who filed for personal bankruptcy in May 1999, recently landed a job as a lobbyist at Public Sector Consulting Group LLC, a Baltimore-based marketing and lobbying firm, and is paid an annual salary of $120,000, according to Kinstler.

As a result, Coleman would no longer be eligible for representation by a public defender, Kinstler said. However, Berger has indicated that the Office of the Public Defender, Mandel and Waldman are all representing Coleman.

"We are all her counsel," Kinstler said. "Will that continue? I believe ultimately the case belongs to Governor Mandel's office."

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