Judge and jury are hearing a case in federal court in Minneapolis that could have played on “NYPD Blue.” MinnPost legal affairs reporter Judith Yates Borger is following the trial’s developments. To read her previous reports on the trial, go here.
8 a.m. Tuesday morning. Rehak is back on the stand. Different suit, same St. Paul Police Department lapel pin.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Marty is grilling Rehak. His tone is accusatory but not harsh. Under his questioning, Rehak acknowledges that he has worked a side job as a painter for 10 years.
“You lied on your tax returns and didn’t report that income, didn’t you?” Marty asks.
Paul Engh, Rehak’s attorney, shoots to his feet. “Objection, your honor,” he says. “May we approach the bench, please?”
U.S. District Court Judge Patrick Schiltz turns off his own microphone. The courtroom is saturated with an irritating static for two minutes while all the attorneys confer with the judge. There’s relief when the judge turns his microphone back on.
“You lied on your tax returns and didn’t report that income, didn’t you?” Marty asks again.
“I’m not saying I lied on my tax return,” Rehak says. “I just didn’t put in the income.”
Marty turns Rehak’s attention to the Kelly Inn on Nov. 3, 2004 when Mark Naylon, the other defendant, pocketed $6,000. He asks Rehak to recall that the video tape showing Rehak and Naylon alone in the bathroom of room 503. Marty points out that Naylon could have planted the money in the tiles then if he were playing a joke on Martinez.
Then Marty takes Rehak to the report he wrote about the incident. “You didn’t talk about going back to the hotel in the report because you wanted to keep it secret, didn’t ya?”
Rehak replies that everything he wrote in the report was true. “It was the facts minus the joke on Rollie,” he says.
The core of Rehak and Naylon’s defense is that they weren’t really taking the money. They were just yanking the chain of their boss, Commanding Sgt. Rolland Martinez. Rehak testified earlier that Naylon had continued the joke after Martinez had put the money in an evidence locker by moving the money to another locker. When Martinez couldn’t find it and grew angry and frustrated, Naylon returned the money to the original locker, for Martinez to find it again.
The government’s contention, which the defense denies, is that Rehak and Naylon returned the $6,000 because they figured out it was a sting. As proof the government points to a quote on a video and audio tape of a second sting operation in a white Lincoln with a broken back window the FBI parked in the Holiday Inn parking lot in St. Paul. The jury has not been told yet that the judge dismissed those charges. Marty wants the jury to hear that quote again.
“You got angry when you went to the car and found no dope, didn’t you?” Marty asks Rehak. Then he plays the tape. After finding no money or drugs in car, Rehak is heard saying clearly, “Another fuckin’ set up.”
Replies Rehak: “That’s not even close to me showing anger.”
Engh attorney goes to the lectern as Marty leaves. He reminds Rehak that there has been suggestion that Martinez is the butt of many practical jokes because he’s Hispanic. Engh wants Rehak to tell the jury there are other reasons why Martinez has a target painted on his back.
“One, he’s easy,” Rehak says of Martinez. “Two, he’s so full of himself. The point is to knock him down to our level.”
Engh continues. He gives Rehak opportunity to tell the jury why Naylon didn’t hide the money in the tiles of the bathroom for Martinez to find after he had already searched that room.
“He said he wanted to stuff the money in the toilet but he couldn’t find a rubber glove,” Rehak said. “I told him to find some place to hide it but to make sure it was turned in. We absolutely had no intent of doing anything with that money other than turn it in.”
The defense rests and Rehak leaves the stand.
Next witness, the judge says to the defense lawyers.
Surprise! Naylon will not testify. The defense rests.
Naylon, 48, has sat quietly at the defense table throughout the trial, occasionally whispering with his attorney, Paul Rogosheske. Naylon is a slight man, with grey blond hair, half balding, a goatee and glasses. Today he has on a blue suit. His wife and daughters have been in the court room throughout the trial. On one of the breaks, Naylon put his arm around his wife and asked, “Are you alright?” Today she’s worrying a tissue in her hands.
After the jury has been dismissed, Judge Schiltz calls Naylon to the lectern. He wants Naylon to know he can testify if he wants to but he doesn’t have to. “Your silence cannot be used against you,” Schiltz says.
Then Kevin Short, attorney for Rehak, rises to ask the judge to dismiss the remaining six charges, saying the prosecution has no case. Schiltz refuses.
“I do feel there is enough evidence for the jury to find the defendants guilty,” Schiltz says.
Closing statements will continue this afternoon.