Prosecution moves to Newell
By By Suzanne Monk/The Meridian Star
April 4, 2001
The prosecution team shifted its attention Tuesday to C.D. "Bubba" Newell, one of four defendants in a federal trial that alleges he was part of a scheme to defraud Comcast of $2.6 million.
The trial is taking place in U.S. District Court in Meridian. The principal defendant, former Comcast-Primestar executive David Colvin, pleaded guilty and has concluded his testimony for the federal government.
Newell is a former vice president of Trustmark National Bank in Meridian. During the period covered by the indictment, January 1994 to August 1996, Colvin and Newell were reportedly close friends.
Colvin testified last week that the American Express cards at the center of the prosecution's case were originally used to pay legitimate business expenses. It was Newell, he said, who late came up with the idea to use the card to defraud Comcast.
The house Colvin was building was next door to Newell's on Lindley Road. A second home, near Dogwood Lake, was being remodeled for the benefit of Newell's children Colvin's godchildren.
Tuesday's proceedings also addressed the involvement of another defendant, contractor Darrell Wayne Raley, who was helping Newell and Colvin with the construction projects.
During four days of testimony, Colvin shied away from directly accusing three of the four defendants of knowingly participating in fraud. Newell is the exception. Colvin has repeatedly said, "Mr. Newell was my banker. He knew where the money was coming from."
A number of local merchants and bankers took the stand Tuesday, verifying transactions.
Many purchases were made on Colvin's American Express card, including but not limited to landscaping and interior decorating items, tractors, four-wheelers, motorcycles, artworks, televisions, VCRs, CD players, building supplies, rent on an apartment in New Orleans, meals and limousines.
In some cases, Newell had an account with the vendor in question. In some, it was Raley who remitted payment on outstanding charges.
Court was dismissed 15 minutes early Tuesday, after U.S. District Judge Tom Lee learned from Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Anderson the examination of his next witness was likely to be lengthy.
Court was scheduled to resume at 8:45 a.m. today.
Suzanne Monk is managing editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The federal government's prosecution team is made up of: 1) Bob Anderson, assistant U.S. attorney; 2) Harold Brittain, assistant U.S. attorney; 3) Randy Patterson of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division; 4) Cynthia Stricklin, an IRS revenue agent; and 5) Gary Morrow of the FBI. Brittain rejoined the team Monday, having been out the first week due to a death in the family.
Southern courtrooms have a style of their own. In the North, a judge might ask an attorney who wants a private sidebar, "Would you like to approach the bench?" In U.S. District Judge Tom Lee's courtroom, you are as likely to hear, "Did you want to visit?"
There are four co-defendants in this trial, represented by three attorneys. Before the trial began, there had been motions from defense attorneys for "severance," which means they wanted their clients tried separately. Frank Trapp, representing Kim Gianakos, and Charlie Wright, representing Kary Graham, renewed their requests for severance Tuesday. Judge Lee denied their motions.
It is a reporting challenge to cover the early stages of a major trial. Attorneys presenting their initial exhibits and questioning witnesses do so with little commentary about what they hope to prove. They are laying the groundwork for later in the trial, when they will have an opportunity to draw conclusions and tell the jury what they think it means. A reporter covering a trial must make her own assumptions about the significance of the questions. In some cases, it is permissible to ask attorneys for clarification. That is not the case in this trial, where both sides have been asked not to speak to members of the press.