By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
ABERDEEN – Twenty-one-year agent Hal Neilson broke down with emotion Wednesday as he told a jury that he never violated his loyalty oath to his country and the FBI.
“Mister Neilson, in the past two years, have you told the truth of the best of your ability,” asked his defense counsel, Christi R. McCoy, as his six-hour testimony drew to a close.
“Absolutely,” the 49-year-old Oxford man said.
Neilson is on trial because a Jan. 13 indictment accuses him of lying about his financial interests in the Oxford FBI’s office building. He insists he had FBI approval to take on a one-third ownership.
Can you see any benefit in lying about this? McCoy said as tears began to stream down Neilson’s face about 7 p.m.
“I had no reason to lie,” he said to her.
Prosecutors say otherwise and have spent seven days in the U.S. District Courthouse trying to convince a 12-member jury that he willfully lied or falsified or failed to report his own financial interests, as well as a part-ownership in the building.
The defense contends that Neilson did not own any part of the facility at 2109 University Ave. until October 2005, and that this timing is crucial as it relates to his part or lack of participation in two site selection efforts in 2001.
At the end of Wednesday, Judge Sharion Aycock told the jury they likely will begin deliberations this afternoon.
If convicted on all the five counts against him, Neilson faces up to 25 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine. His wife, three of his four children and dozens of friends and relatives are expected in the courtroom today.
During questioning by defense and prosecution, Neilson admitted to numerous mistakes in filing annual FBI financial reports. And he admitted to financial failures in his numerous business ventures with Oxford developer, John Covington, an old college friend.
He told jurors that discrepancies exist in taped interviews he had with investigators because he got dates or details wrong in trying to remember events from nearly seven years ago.
He said he never tried to hide his involvement in buying the building with Covington and Dino Grisanti of C&G Properties LLC.
He also said he had been wrong in repeated depictions of a $50,000 payout as a “loan” from their partnership, when he was not even a C&G partner. In hindsight, he said, the transaction was a legal “draw” from another company they owned together, ACM LLC.
Before Neilson’s testimony, the defense presented several FBI colleagues who spoke to Neilson’s honest character and trustworthiness.
Prosecutors grew more combative with questioning, especially of C&G’s tax attorney, Brad Walsh of Oxford, who insisted some of Neilson’s mistakes came from his recommendations.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.