Jury begins deliberating case against FBI agent

ABERDEEN – FBI agent Hal Neilson must wait a few more hours for a jury verdict in his federal conflict-of-interest trial.
Neilson, 49, of Oxford is accused of lying about his financial interests in the FBI Building, where he works.
This trial began Nov. 8 with Judge Sharion Aycock presiding. Today marks its ninth day in session, with a break for Veterans Day.
About 6 p.m. Thursday, the jury asked Aycock if they could go home for the night. She agreed, and court resumes at 9 a.m. today.
Thursday, attorneys for both sides made their final statements to the 12-member jury, which went to work about 4 p.m.
They must be unanimous on each of the five counts on which he was indicted Jan. 13. If convicted on all, the 21-year FBI veteran faces up to 25 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine.
“That day of redemption is today,” defense counsel Christi R. McCoy of Oxford told the jury in her closing statement.
“It’s the time to know that Hal Neilson, while not perfect, is not a criminal.”
Two dozen Neilson friends and family were in the courtroom for what they thought might be the trial’s last day.
Among them were his three daughters, ages 16 to 9, and his wife, Michelle.
Prosecutors Rene Salomon and Richard Bourgeois Jr. pushed hard in their closing remarks, repeatedly reminding the jurors of documents and Neilson signatures that they believed prove he made decisions about the 2109 University Ave. building, when he knew he would become or was one of its owners.
Neilson contends a now-retired FBI legal counsel in Jackson gave him permission to invest in property, which might be rented by the FBI. That man, Mike Turner, denied such advice on the stand earlier this week.
In late 2005, Neilson officially became a member in C&G Properties LLC with John Covington and Dino Grisanti, who had built the building a year earlier. Prosecutors contend he knew much earlier that he joined C&G.
“He says he got into C&G in 2004,” Bourgeois said to the jury, “but now, he says you shouldn’t believe him.”
On the stand, Neilson admitted to numerous omissions and verbal and written mistakes, especially on mandatory FBI financial reports, but he insisted they were not intentional.
“We see a lot of things that make Mr. Neilson look like a bad guy,” said defense counsel Ronald Michael of Booneville, “but they’re not true. Not true at all.”
Salomon had the last word.
“Hold him accountable for his choices and his conduct,” Salomon said. “ He did it, and there’s no doubt about it.”

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal