Defense attorneys deal blow to prosecutor’s fraud case
Prosecutors found themselves in the hot seat Friday during the trial of former police officer Charlie Malouff Jr., who is accused of falsifying documents to secure a grant for a failed Jonestown wind energy project.
Malouff’s defense attorneys challenged testimony by the prosecution’s star witness, an accountant who told jurors she suspected that Malouff spent some money from the $2 million federal stimulus grant for personal use. The defense had previously asked for a mistrial because they had not received evidence that formed the basis of that testimony — detailed spreadsheets organized by Robin Timmins, a former accountant in the district attorney’s office.
Defense lawyers got the evidence earlier this week. On Friday, attorneys Jackie Wood and Tamara Needles told District Court Judge Karen Sage that they found that only $100,000 went to the 57-year-old Malouff. The rest of the grant went to pay employees salaries and purchase equipment to build wind turbines.
Prosecution witnesses had painted the 55-year-old Malouff as a con man. Dana Malouff McCoy, the defendant’s daughter, said he persuaded her to be his company’s president on paper only. Travis County Sheriff’s Deputy Toby Miller testified that Malouff used his romantic relationship with former Texas Comptroller grant administrator Mary Jo Woodall to get the grant. Ken Price, a civil engineer employed by Malouff, said Malouff oversold his ability to build wind turbines. Malouff also didn’t pay him all the money he’d earned, Price said.
The newly released evidence seemed to put the prosecution’s case in jeopardy. The jury was not present for Friday’s court discussion, and Sage has said that she wants to hear what Lori Carter, the state’s chief investigator in the case, has to say about the gathering of evidence.
“I would have thought Charlie had a bank account in Switzerland. I’m troubled. That’s the impression I got,” said Sage, who spoke outside the presence of the jury. “Timmins’ spreadsheets do cause me concern.”
Assistant District Attorney Holly Taylor, with Travis County’s Public Integrity Unit, spent 35 minutes Friday going over the evidence she’s introduced in the trial.
Prosecutors said they would have another accountant review evidence to re-create Timmins’ spreadsheets and would provide the new documents to defense attorneys late Friday. Defense attorneys will have time to review them before next week when Timmins, who now works as an accountant in the Rio Grande Valley, will be called back to the witness stand.
Taylor has said she didn’t know about the existence of potentially exculpatory evidence Timmins had in her possession.
“The state has done something wrong and they are trying to rectify that,” Wood said Friday.
Sage, after hearing from Carter and others on Monday, could declare a mistrial or allow testimony to continue and have the jury to make its own decision about Malouff’s culpability.
If convicted of securing execution of a document by deception, Malouff could be sentenced to life in prison. He is already serving a 2 1/2- year sentence in federal prison for possession of a firearm and destructive devices, including hand grenades.