Saturday, June 03, 2006

Filings Hint At Evidence Of DOA/Gov's Office Calls With Adelman

With the felony "bid-rigging" case against DOA civil servant Georgia Thompson set to begin Monday, attorneys in the case Thursday evening filed a flurry of pre-trial documents, totaling dozens of pages, which offer a glimpse into the attorneys' possible strategies and key points of evidence.

Thompson has been charged with manipulating bid scores while serving on a request for proposals committee, so a $750,000 state travel contract would be awarded to Adelman Travel Group. Adelman execs donated a total of $20,000 to Gov. Jim Doyle's re-election campaign shortly before and after the award of the now-rescinded contract.

One defense filing seems to suggest that the prosecution plans to introduce evidence of "phone calls placed by and between principals of Adelman Travel Group, Governor Doyle's office and Wisconsin Department of Administration ("DOA"), including DOA Secretary Marc Marotta." The same filing seeks to disallow that and other types of evidence relating to Doyle's campaign as irrelevant to the case against Thompson.

Another defense filing seeks to disallow testimony from other members of the committee relating to the motivation for Thompson's actions. The filing quotes several interviews with investigators where committee members said they thought there was "outside pressure","outside forces" or "political reasons" behind some of Thompson's actions in committee.

Other filings include proposed jury questions from each side, proposed jury instructions and a defense objection to a magistrate's recommendation from earlier this week that defense motions to dismiss be denied.

Read below for a summary of Thursday's filings.

***Defense motions

In a series of six pre-trial motions, Thompson's attorney, Stephen Hurley, seeks to suppress what may be key points of the government's case.

In his first motion, Hurley asks Chief Judge Rudolph Randa to prohibit evidence regarding donations by Adelman Travel Group execs to Doyle's campaign fund, an invitation sent by an Adelman exec to Doyle to attend an Adelman function, phone calls between Adelman, Doyle, and the Wisconsin Department of Administration, including former DOA Sec. Mark Marotta, and whether travel agencies who responded to the request for proposals donated to Doyle's campaign fund.

Read the motion:

Hurley also asks the court to disallow testimony stemming from a person's "perception" or "belief" as to reasons behind Thompson's alleged statements or conduct during committee meetings. Hurley argues that "no witness could describe any factual or objective observation for their assertion."

Hurley further argues that federal rules of evidence "require that a witness give testimony based on perception from the five senses – not from some sixth sense."

Some examples of testimony Hurley says should be inadmissible:

"The perception among the committee members was so strong Thompson was being directed by outside forces to push for Adelman, they told her she didn't have to do this if she was having a struggle."

"There was something even more unusual going on than just Thompson's unhappiness with the selection. It was the consensus of the other committee members there was some outside pressure driving Thompson."

"Nettesheim believed that there were political reasons behind Thompson's statement."

Read the motion:

Read the other motions:

***Proposed juror questions

In Hurley's proposed jury questions he proposes a series of questions that appear aimed not only at gauging a potential juror's level of political involvement, but also political orientation. Among questions about whether a person has donated money to a candidate or ran for office are such questions as "Are you involved in any local political activities? What are/were they?" and "Do you have bumper stickers on any of your vehicles? If so, what do they say?"

Other questions look to point out bias due to various other affiliations, past experiences, general opinions, and possible media exposure relating to the case.

See Hurley's proposed questions:

Many of the prosecution's proposed questions are in the same vein, but others are quite pointed.

One outlines a summary of a portion of the indictment and asks: "Do any of you feel that a public employee responsible for deciding who should be awarded a public contract should be free to disregard the written criteria governing who should be awarded the contract and instead award the contract to a vendor favored by her supervisors or state politicians?"

Another asks: "The government contends that, but for the defendant's alleged wrongful conduct, the State of Wisconsin would have awarded the contract to the travel agency Omega World Travel. Have you, any member of your family, or any close friend ever been employed by the (sic) Omega World Travel?"

View the government's questions:

***Proposed jury instructions

The proposed jury instructions offer further insight into both the prosecution's and the defense's strategy.

In wording that harkens back to a previous filing, the government proposes that the jury be told "a participant in a scheme to defraud may be guilty even if all of the benefits of the fraud accrue to others. The public may be deprived of its public officials' or employees' honest services no matter who receives the benefits of the fraud."

The government also seeks the jury to be told that "In order to prove the existence of the charged conspiracy to engage in a scheme to defraud, the government need not prove that there was any loss to the alleged victims of the scheme or any gain to Thompson. The government also need not identify who, in particular, were the intended or actual victims of the alleged scheme."

See the government's proposed jury instructions:

One of Hurley's proposed jury instructions suggests a defense theory that Thompson may not have been aware that her alleged actions were part of other criminal activity. "If the accused performed acts that advanced a criminal activity of others but had no knowledge that a crime was being committed or was about to be committed, those acts alone are not sufficient to establish Georgia Thompson's guilt," writes Hurley.

Hurley also seems to suggest Thompson's alleged actions could have been motivated by simply wanting to award the contract to a Wisconsin company. "A violation of the Wisconsin Administrative Code governing the procurement process does not, standing alone, constitute the commission of either offense with which the accused has been charged," writes Hurley. "If you believe that Georgia Thompson acted with the intent to cause the award of the Partner contract to a Wisconsin-based company, you must acquit her."

See the defense's proposed instructions:

***Hurley Objects To Magistrate's Recommendations

Hurley fired back at Magistrate Judge Patricia Gorence's recommendations to deny a motion for a bill of particulars and two pre-trial motions to dismiss. In his rebuke, Hurley brings attention to the fact that the recommendations, which are to allow for a 10-day response period, were filed less than a week before the trial was set to begin. Hurley said the timing left "no more that three businesses days to file objections" before the trial was to begin and blamed the short preparation time for what he termed his "sparse" objections.

Hurley reiterated his position that the indictment and discovery materials failed to answer fundamental questions. "The indictment ought not be complex," argued Hurley, "though it need not be so sparse as haiku – and, quite unlike the Da Vinci Code, its unraveling ought not be suspenseful." In the remainder of the document, Hurley reiterates the rest of his positions in his original motions and parries with Gorence on the applicability of various precedents.

See the objection here:

In its response to the defense's objection, the government cites a Seventh Court of Appeals decision and, contrary to Hurley, asserts that there need be no underlying offense committed to for honest services fraud to occur.

The government also argues that the discretionary nature of Thompson's job is no defense for her alleged actions. "The indictment alleges that she exercised that discretion dishonestly," the government writes, "by, among other things, inflating her score on the "partner" contract, trying to cause others to do so, and ultimately causing the contract to be steered to a particular vendor for political reasons other than the merits criteria that were to govern the contract award process."

See the prosecution response:

See an earlier Courtwatch Blog posting on the magistrate's recommendation.

-- By David A. Wise


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