A Jeffco jury deadlocked for the second time in six months on whether former Jeffco treasurer Mark Paschall tried to solicit a kickback from a political appointee in the twilight of his term.
Jurors could not reach a verdict on the charge of compensation for past official behavior. In Paschall’s first trial in February, the jury found him not guilty of attempted theft but also deadlocked on the compensation charged.
Paschall was accused of offering a political appointee an $18,000 post-tax bonus on the condition she give him half. The bonus was never approved, and the appointee, Kathy Redmond, told Commissioner Jim Congrove about Paschall's alleged offer.
Congrove called Jeffco District Attorney Scott Storey, and an investigation was launched, which eventually produced a tape of Paschall discussing the supposed kickback. Paschall was indicted in January 2007 and went on trial on the two felony charges in February 2008.
A question from jurors at midafternoon July 31 was the first indication of a hung jury: "We can still not make a unanimous decision," the jury said in a note to the judge. "What do we do?" District Judge Randall Arp called them back into the courtroom and asked if they could come to a conclusion.
"It seems that people are passionate about where they stand," the jury foreman said. "After deliberating a second time, it does not appear there would be a change in our decision."
Arp declared a mistrial and set Aug. 18 as the day the district attorney's office would have to decide its next move in the case.
"We just kissed our sister for the second time," Paschall defense attorney David Lane said after the trial. "I hope this means they'll see reason and stop the madness."
Lane said Jeffco DA Scott Storey should pack it in on this case.
"How many times do you take a guy through trial on a class 6 felony?" Lane said. "Unfortunately the government in Jefferson County has unlimited resources to try the case 100 times if they want to. Mark Paschall doesn't have unlimited resources."
Lane added that at some point the prosecution becomes a "persecution."
"David Lane is amusing, but I think he misses the point," Storey said. This prosecution was about good government, not Paschall personally, Storey added.
"Jefferson County deserves good government, and people might wonder if this is a vendetta against Mark Paschall. This has nothing to do with him personally. This has not a thing to do with Jim Congrove."
County Commissioner Jim Congrove was central to the defense's case. Lane said from the beginning it was a case of political payback, not a kickback. Congrove, a former ally of Paschall, was upset that Paschall wouldn't discuss his testimony before a grand jury investigating Congrove on an unrelated matter, Lane maintained.
Storey acknowledged that Congrove tried to persuade him to drop the case in recent weeks, but Storey was determined.
"It's about leadership and good government, and the fiduciary responsibility an elected official has," Storey said. Storey said Congrove has a "keen interest in my office" but wouldn't elaborate.
Jurors gave reasons for their divided vote in a post-trial interview with media and the attorneys for both sides.
"The prosecution didn't prove enough for me," one juror said.
"The audio tape was enough for me," another juror replied. Lane told jurors that Paschall's statement on the tape referred to a conversation that was never recorded, so it was hard to tell that he was speaking in jest, as the defense maintained.
"The cohesiveness of her testimony wasn't there," one juror said of Redmond. "That's what hurt me."
The jurors reported the stalemate was 7-5 in favor of acquittal.
Deputy District Attorney Tom Jackson told the jury during his closing statement July 31 that Paschall wanted the money, and thought Redmond would go along with the deal.
"Mr. Paschall picks out Kathy Redmond to do this with because he can't do it himself," Jackson said. He could have chosen other people solicit a kickback from, "but he picks Kathy Redmond, a political appointee, somebody that he has, in his position, power and control over. She is vulnerable to something like this, and he knows that, and that is why he picked her."
The majority of Redmond's testimony was backed up by evidence, Jackson said, and the tape she made of Paschall discussing splitting the bonus in thirds — a third for taxes, a third for Redmond and a third for him — should have been enough.
"If what is said there is what is meant, he is guilty," Jackson said.
Meanwhile, Lane had told the jury:
"In order to convict Mark Paschall, you have got to be able to say, in your heart of hearts, ‘Kathy Redmond's testimony was so overwhelmingly convincing to me that she has eliminated any reasonable doubt about it,’ " Lane said.
Lane pointed out that several points in Redmond's testimony were inconsistent with her testimony in the February trial. Redmond said on the witness stand that her current answers conflicted with the February answers because she was "scared, and distracted," but Lane said Redmond was "dancing around issues, and not answering questions directly."
"Are you really buying what Kathy Redmond is selling?" Lane asked the jury. "She's lying through her teeth, right to your faces."
Contact AJ Vicens at email@example.com.