By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – FBI agent Hal Neilson’s Christmas is blue no more.
Wednesday, federal prosecutor Richard Bourgeois dismissed three remaining counts against Neilson, who was found not guilty of two others Nov. 20 after a two-week trial.
Bourgeois said a re-examination of the case, in preparation for a retrial, showed the U.S. “that it now cannot meet its burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Neilson, 49, of Oxford was indicted Jan. 13 on five counts that he lied about his financial interests in the Oxford FBI building at 2106 University Ave., where he worked.
He’s been on suspension almost ever since, but he’s due to retire Dec. 31 with 20-plus years of service.
His trial jury foreman was pleased with the news.
“I am so happy to hear that,” said Don Lambert of Booneville.
Lambert was foreman for the jury that acquitted Neilson but hung up on the other counts. He declined to say what the vote was on those pending counts, but reliable sources tell the Daily Journal it was 10-2 for not guilty.
“Personally, I did not see enough evidence to convict him,” said Lambert, a resource officer for the Booneville schools.
He said Neilson’s testimony at trial was a pivotal part of the decision for him.
“I believed him, and I didn’t believe others’ testimony,” Lambert noted.
Christi R. McCoy of Oxford, Neilson’s lead defense attorney, said she was “overwhelmed” by the news of the dismissal.
“I can’t fathom a better Christmas gift – not just for Hal and his family,” she said, “but for the justice system as a whole.
“This is a step in the right direction to ‘right the wrongs’ committed against Hal.”
Her co-counsel, Ronald Michael of Booneville, said that despite their happiness with the Nov. 20 verdict, the three counts – which were set for trial Jan. 18 – “were hanging over the joy.”
Neilson’s friend, Geoffrey Yoste of Oxford, sat in the Aberdeen courtroom for several days with other friends to support the Neilsons.
“I am elated by the news,” he said Wednesday from Washington, D.C. “The people who know Hal never once believed that he ever did anything criminal.”
Neilson, his wife and a dozen friends wept for joy when the jury decision was announced.
“When I told Hal they were seeking to dismiss the charges,” Michael said, “he said he just felt like crying all over again.”
Michael said that Neilson is reluctant to comment publicly since he still is an FBI employee, but that may change after he retires.
During the course of the trial, juror Ellen Brumley of Columbus declined to be excused for a trip to visit her grandchildren in Colorado.
“I just felt like I needed to fight for him,” she said Wednesday. “I wouldn’t want anybody thinking my life wasn’t worth any more than a vacation.”
“I’m just so happy it’s ended this way.”
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.