And so it begins. If (the local press corps) is lucky, we’ll get six solid weeks of non-stop Tom Petters trial testimony and maybe even a jury decision before the New Year. With literally every news outlet in town covering jury selection and opening arguments Wednesday, there probably isn’t much you don’t know about Day #1. Suffice it to say no one is disputing massive fraud. What it’s going to be about now is whether the jury buys Petters argument, which is kind of Nixon-like in a “mistakes were made by others” sort of way, or whether the 10 women and six men find it more likely that Petters was paying enough attention over 15 years to know the thing was flagrantly illegal.
The Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal’s Katharine Grayson reminds readers that “Petters was the sole owner of Petters Co. Inc., and [for a time] Deanna Coleman and Robert White were its only two employees. Coleman confessed details of the Ponzi scheme to federal investigators, and went on to record several conversations with Petters, portions of which were played during opening arguments. White, meanwhile, falsified thousands of documents that were used to commit fraud.” She also notes that Petters and Coleman “had an ‘intimate’ relationship for a period from 2005 to 2006.”
The Bloomberg News story notes that “Prosecutors said they have more than 2,000 e-mails between Petters and Coleman that contradict the entrepreneur’s claims he was unaware of the Ponzi scheme. The e-mails are evidence of Petters’s ‘knowledge and participation in the scheme,’ prosecutors said in court filings.” It also quotes a Wayne State law professor saying, “This case is a Ponzi scheme and an out-and-out fraud. It’s the Hail Mary defense. When you’ve got nothing else left, you say, ‘I didn’t know anything.’ “
David Phelps’ story for the Strib notes that among possible witnesses may be ex-KSTP sportscaster Joe Schmit, “who’s now spokesman for Sun Country Airlines and president of the John T. Petters Foundation. The foundation is named after Petters’ eldest son, who died in Italy after a tragic misunderstanding led to a confrontation while he was traveling through Italy as a student.”
Martin Moylan over at MPR quotes John Radsan of William Mitchell on the problematic nature of the prosecution’s witnesses, mostly Petters’ extraordinarily funky, uh, “business partners.” Says Rasdan: “It’s especially important to corroborate cooperating witnesses because juries don’t like snitches. But they will believe snitches if they find out by other documents, records and recordings and even other witnesses that what the cooperating witnesses are saying is true.”
Jury selection in the case went pretty smoothly. None of that OJ-like stuff here. But in case you are ever called and really have better things to do, try the excuse used by a New Prague woman, who, according to WCCO-TV’s Esme Murphy, ” … has been dismissed because she lives in New Prague and won’t drive in the ‘cities.’ She wanted the court to provide transportation from Burnsville.” Yeah! And I’d like the driver to wear a fresh carnation every day and refer to me as “pasha.”
Meanwhile in another courtroom not so far, far away … a judge stepped in and vetoed the idea reported Wednesday that would have the Walser car dealer folks pay Denny Hecker $700,000 in “consulting fees” via the sale of one of his dealerships up in Brainerd. Your first question is a good one: ” ‘Consulting? About what? How to keep the estranged missus and the girlfriend happy on the same $12 million compound?’ ” The Strib’s Dee DePass files here.
Fox9 runs the sad story of former Viking Ersell Mackbee on his deathbed after a stroke and his family struggling to raise $25,000 to send him home to California for his final days. “Mackbee played defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings in the late ’60s as part of the vaunted ‘purple people eaters.’ ” Actually, Mackbee played cornerback. But you have to be of a certain age to remember that.
Dude! … Bummer! That odd odor at the town house fire in Eagan Wednesday? It was like, perfectly good bud going up in flames, man. It seems the, uh, horticultural experiments in his town house got a little too close to the growing lights and suddenly … like “Towering Inferno,” dude. Vince Tuss brings the story in the Strib, including this detail. “Officers also found several bags with marijuana stems, buds and leaves as well as equipment used to put together joints and Parranto’s expired driver’s license … .” The only thing that could make this story more tragic would be a half-finished white Russian.
Waldo est morte. After nearly two weeks on its own in the wild, Waldo the wallaby was spotted and then found dead in Savage. A family pet, Waldo hopped away one day. Mary Lynn Smith’s writes in the Strib, “Neighbors and others in the community reported numerous sightings during the first couple weeks after Waldo’s escape from his back-yard pen … After that, no one reported seeing the timid wallaby for 12 days until Tuesday.”
So it was the big rubber nose you say? Mara Gottfried tells the story in the Pioneer Press of the guy who comes in to rob a bank in St. Paul disguised as … well, a bank robber. You know, fake mustache and beard, hood pulled over his head, sunglasses and clutching a note. Even the guy with his personal pot field might have picked up that this was something more than someone withdrawing cash for a trip to Lund’s. Even better, comedically speaking, “Two St. Paul city workers … watched as the man got into a gray Dodge — and they had a license plate number … St. Paul police later located the man in a duplex in the 1000 block of Front Avenue, around the corner from the bank.” That’s right …around the corner from the bank.
The herd of candidates to succeed Tim Pawlenty will all try subtly to emphasize their youthful, vigorous bona fides, but truth be told, according to some number crunching by the folks at Smart Politics, this is a significantly older crowd, average-speaking, than Minnesota typically elects to office. ” … [W]hile the average age of Minnesota’s governors upon assuming office has been 44.3 years, the current batch of 2010 gubernatorial hopefuls come in at a much more ‘seasoned’ average age of 52.2 years – one year out from Election Day.” Of course Philip Herwig (67) and Leslie Davis (72) tend to drive up the figure.