By Patsy R. Brumfield / Daily Journal
6:13 p.m. – The jury in the case of FBI agent Hal Neilson has gone home and will resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Friday.
ABERDEEN – FBI agent Hal Neilson’s jury has begun its deliberations about whether the 12 people on it believe that he intentionally lied about his interests in the Oxford FBI Building, where he was the agency’s top supervisor.
The jury must be unanimous in its decisions of not guilty, guilty of all or guilty of some of the five counts charged against him in a Jan. 13 indictment. The jury also could fail to be able to decide unanimously, which would cause what is called a mistrial.
Before those deliberations, attorneys for both sides made closing statements. The government went first, then the defense, then the government wrapped it up.
U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock is presiding over this trial, which began Nov. 8 in the Aberdeen federal courthouse.
Attorneys are: Government – Rene Salomon and Richard Bourgeois Jr. of the Middle District of Louisiana; and Defense – Christi R. McCoy of Oxford, and Ronald Michael and Seth Pounds of Booneville.
1:50 – Judge, jury return.
Here is what the attorneys had to say:
On behalf of Mr. Salomon and myself, thank you for your attention across the past two weeks. We’ll go through the evidence. In his opening statements, Salomon said this is a case about telling the truth. Govt. contends that didn’t take place. Neilson was an FBI supervisor and concealed the truth, participating in matters that could affect his financial interests.
Ask yourself, what did the defendant say, do, write? Look at his statements, financial reports?
Keep your focus, what did he certify? Wht did he leave off? What did he tell investigators? What actions did he take to affect that financial interests?
He’s an attorney, an FBI agent. He requested the interview. He knew the consequencs. What we heard were excuses, blaming others, accusing others. Statements that can’t be explained were just called inaccurate.
When did he have a financial interest? Said before site selection process, I was in on this. In Aug. ’05 e-mail, he said I bought into a building occupied by the federal govt. Said wouldn’t have given me $50K loan, if I hadn’t been in it. Feb. ’05, ACM money going to C&G – $153K. Does he have a financial interest in C&G when it’s paying for his lake house?
Said there was an oral agreement before the written agreement. A financial interest, does he have one? In the affairs of his entity. In what happens with the FBI building.
It’s a loan, I had to pay it back (Neilson says on tape). It’s routed through ACM. Memo line, I don’t know why “sale” was on it. Deposits it, pays his credit card bills.
Now, the routing is described as loaning money to himself, two years later. That’s not what he said in his interview.
A version of events in connection to this “loan” that draws on anything that was mentioned when he was asked about it.
C&G doesn’t show up on any paper given to the FBI. It’s his duty to put on there.
Says he got into C&G in 2004, but now he says you shouldn’t believe him. Or let’s blame Brad Walsh. But don’t look too hard to e-mail to Hogan Allen that says I bought in in 2004.
In July 2005, he signs a permanent loan commitment $2.2M as a personal guarantor to get this finances. Does he have a personal interest in C&G when he signs? You see a flurry of documents about C&G. Then Oct. 17, two weeks after he signed this paperwork, he certified to the FBI that nothing’s changed from what he reported the year before.
Says ’05 was just like ’04.
On 2006 report, doesn’t list any interest in the FBI building. Falsely certifies that information is true and correct. Blames Mike Turner. WE know what he did – he forged the signature for Agent Gomez on that form. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the information on the form.
The judge says the lies must be material – capable of influencing the agency he works for. Remember Pat Kelly, FBI’s ethics guy, who explained the filing process. He’s relying on them to certify to the truthfulness. He said he would not have certified these reports if he had known there was false information on them.
These forms certainly misled the FBI.
Why would he lie? Simple – because you can’t do this. You can’t own a building that you work in. Had he asked for permission, we would have said no. If we had found it, we would have said “divest yourself” or face the consequences.
Get to 2006, Turner has retired. Nothing shows up with respect to liabilities. $50K loan information is gone. It’s one thing to say I’ve got a car loan of $20K, it’s another to report I’ve got a $50K loan that’s internal on terms not available to the general public. Think that wouldn’t raise any questions?
Outside positions, if you act as a representative of any business entity, you have to report it on there. Nothing to connect Mr. Neilson to the building at this point on 2006 CFDR. What does he say about why not on there? First, says he didn’t think he had any outside positions. Then says he didn’t read the instructions to that part, guess I should have reported.
But if you had permission to own the FBI building, would you not read the instructions about assets and liabilities? Be sloppy on the reporting forms?
Deliberately blinded himself to the existence of a fact? He said he didn’t read the instrutions. On the stand, he says it was a computer glitch. Never came up in interview with Agent Howell.
In Parts 2-3, he says two pieces of commercial estate are listed as just one. Says he’s not reading the instructions.
We’re trying to pound a square peg through a round hole. Says he’s had a computer malfunction.
By 2006, lok at the forms, don’t see anything to connect him to GSA money. None of us are FBI agents, but if you do, you’re going to have extra responsibilities – have to fill out the forms and give truthful information. Must rely on truthfulness of the filer.
They don’t do independent investigation. They don’t cross-check. They rely on the person to tell the truth on the form. For us to review for potential conflict of interest violations.
It’s the conflict that violates the law. The government does not have to lose any money. Could affect – that violates the law. Back to similar question: When did he have a financial interest?
Look at paperwork. He had a financial interest in 2005. He said FBI was using this space without paying for it. Why worry about paying for it? We now know more income means financing would be less costly. More rent could limit the downside on the front.
Feb. ’05, he sends e-mail about the space, as “ideal” for the shop up North. Recommendation to lease that space goes to Harold Mize (others), … I’m not saying Neilson has the authority to lease this space, but he’s taking steps to move this along to lease the space. His support for the lease was personal and substantial and it could have had an impact on his financial interess.
Look at e-mails about Aug. ’05 meetings. (about storage space) Also about punch list to complete building. See who’s on the e-mail: Michael Turner. We don’t see him saying, wait a minute, we can’t ask him to do that because he’s an owner of the building. No, response Neilson gives is “I’ll review the punch list” and then says he contacts the owner. Talk about conflict, inside guy – he’s on both sides of that transaction.
Punch list – meets with GSA rep Dianne West. Aug. 3, Jenkins sends e-mail, gets punch list for items left – personal participation for preparing punch list. E-mail goes straight to GSA… personal reliable about Mr. Neilson put on that form. Yesterday, he said that was Harold Mize’s fault.
(checks list of other people Neilson has blamed.)
That brings us back to permission from Turner. Neilson told Spec Agent Howell. He calls her and references Turner right away. He has two months to get ready for a meeting. First words, I had a conversation with Mike Turner way back prior to site selection and he gave me permission to do this. Investigators come back and ask again, you got permission form Mike Turner? He said yes.
To Brad Walsh – and Covington – said we had to ask Hal about 10 times if he had permission. Said he had to check. Came back later, weeks, months. Says he has permission from Jackson now. I suggest then he didn’t have it straight with Walsh. So, decides just to blame Howell – I wasn’t prepped for the meeting.
Mike Turner denies the whole thing. Mike Turner is a liar, is what we get. Now, with Howell’s references to good faith … if you believe Turner gave permission, only works if agent gave him all relevant facts. He doesn’t tell him it was the building he worked in. Doesn’t get permission, and not permission to lie on CFDRs. Says he got permission but said I couldn’t be active.
Well, he broke the tie of a vote. Signed off on all this paperwork. Tells CPA he’s very active, works on it every day. Conversation with Turner didn’t even happen.
Count 5 – lie about non participation in meetings. Go back to the transcripts. What did he say? “They would not let me in those meetings.” All four ladies said that’s absolutely not true. WE wanted his input, we got it. He signed forms. He was present. No other meetings. He was present. Not what happened.
Look at what else he says: Pushing the property owned by Dino and John. Says it didn’t happen. He sent e-mails about desirable property, “hope this helps,” may never have to move again if we get this property. The defendant doesn’t have a problem telling truth, putting his name on paperwork if it’s in his own interest. His actions … if you want to find some consistency between what he said, what he’s done …what are his best interests in this time and this place.
Words to CPA – that’s what Brad Walsh told him to write? Wasn’t misleading a federal investigator? Don’t believe he wasn’t in meeting? Not what this is …. said wouldn’t let me in meetings. This wasn’t a mistake.
But, if that’s the case (he says), those ladies aren’t telling the truth. Blames Howell for problems with statement. Says never pushed property of Covington and Grisanti.
Emails – oh, that’s the second desirable property, he said. Not what he said. He’s got to get around what he put on paper.
Tried to make the case about Susan Howell, Mike Turner, the GSA ladies, faulty computer, Mike Turner. Hal Neilson, he’s the one responsible here. He knows better than anybody not to lie to federal agents. Your job is to see through all of that.
Ask yourself, what did he say? In October? In 2005? About 2004 tax returns? What was his motive then?
When faced with these contradictions? What does he say?
He needs to be held accountable for his actions. Five counts. Can’t participate when it affects your financial interest. On CFDR forms. Can’t lie to federal agents.
Thank you very much. (2:30 P.M.)
As Mr. Bourgeois, I thank you for your service. Justice system only as good and effective as people who serve as jurors.
Now, it’s easier for me to give Hal to y’all. He and his family have lived this nightmare for more than two years. Now, our last time, to speak on his behalf. This is the hardest part for me. Sometimes it’s hard to know what the right words are.
In this case, once Ronald and I are through, the government will be able to talk again. They have the final say. They have the burden.
Please remember that from the very beginning, we told you that Hal was not guilty. Now at the close, I hope that you will agree that he’s not guilty.
I told you this case was about good faith, particularly the good faith of Hal Neilson. I still believe that. In more than 21 years of good service to this country, it’s hard for me to believe that it all comes down to a few pieces of paper. I thought, wow, if someone pulls all the pieces of paper I’ve ever touched. I’m sure I’ve made mistakes. Walsh said he makes mistakes every day.
Bourgeois mentioned what Kelly said. If we had known about this, said to divest your interest of be fired. That’s not what they did at all.
Meeting Oct. 2009 – meeting they say called by Mr. Neilson. He starts calling as soon as he hears there’s an investigation. He said Mike Turner said I could do this.
Bourgeois talked about an e-mail with Turner’s name. E-mail has to do with repairs, and Turner said that it ws OK to own property and handle repairs and collect rent. So, maybe he looked at it and thought it’s OK. I really think what happened was that Mike Turner never read that e-mail. He said he doesn’t read instructions, he doesn’t read e-mail.
No, he did it his way. Bourgeois said didn’t know what Neilson meant when he said he’d been robbed of a chance at review.
In 2004, when he filled out his closure form. He listed all his property, and he listed 3 companies as outside positions. In 2005, nothing’s changed. Reporting ends Sept. 30, 2005. He writes “see attached.” Gomez told you he never saw this form, never signed it, never gave Turner permission to sign.
Why is this important? Gomez said that if he’d seen this form, it would ahve been a red flag. He would have sat down with Neilson, talked about it, talked about conflicts of interest. He’s charged with two counts of conflicts. Chief Counsel said the very statutes, he’d never heard of.
Govt. would have you hold Hal Neilson to a standard higher than a man who was suppose to train him.
Does not negate his responsibility to fill these out. And he did, to the best of his knowledge. In 2005, he didn’t have a loan, it was a draw. I might have said the same thing. He’s got a law license, but it doesn’t mean he knows anything about transactional law.
I told Hal – one thing we’ve learned – Hal is a much better FBI agent than he is a businessman. I’ve encouraged him to stay away from Covington and stick to the FBI.
Meeting in 2008, he went there in good faith. He relied upon his memory. I asked a witness to tell me about something and she asked to look at her notes. I said no, and she oculdn’t remember.
Could you imagine how many documents, things he had done across those years? He knows he signed these documents, but he doesn’t remember it.
Bourgeois says that because he lied to her, he delayed her and she had to go out and talk to a bunch more people She could have pulled the paperwork out and asked him about it. Why wouldn’t she do that? Why would she not call him back? Secretly recording him before she talked to him?
You heard Neilson, if I’d known that before I went, I would have have gone. He knows that when somebody’s secretly recording you, before they talk to you, it’s a trap. Exactly what the meeting was. He called it, in good faith. Because Hal has a non-criminal faith. Somebody who knows they’ve done something wrong isn’t going to talk.
I think it’s interesting that Bourgeois brought up that Neilson said he had never pushed for property owned by Dino and John. He doesn’t believe he has. He told you why it looked that way – because it was close to the Square. Seven years ago.
As far as his memory, about what happened before site selection, their own witnesses said that didn’t happen. Never any discussion before the site selection, I don’t know why he said that. He doesn’t either. He wasn’t trying to mislead the government. It may be false, but that’s not the end of the inquiry.
What was his intent in making those statement? You ahve to believe he made those statement with the sole intent to mislead the government. Now, why on earth would he mislead Susan Howell about why he was in a meeting, when he had talked to her for two hours about driving them around? It was an honest mistake. That calls for a chance to be redeemed.
That day of redemption is today, It is here. Time to know that Hal Nielson, while not perfect, is not a criminal.
In opening statments, Mr. Salomon told you a few things. One, that the defense would throw up a lot of smoke and mirrors. I say it’s come from the prosecution. YOu look what we put on the stand – people who know Hal Neilson. We don’t quibble with what docunents say – but we have to go to the intent of them.
Bourgeois said Neilson was trying to put the square peg in a round hole. It’s very clear that John Covington wrote “sale” on that check. But the government says, Neilson describes the transaction as a sale (that’s written on document). That gives me great pause.
This is what they want you to believe. It’s a little suspect. They wanted you to believe Susan Howell went to Oxford with good intentions, after secretly recording him? Either allow him to make recollections or rush to courthouse and indict him?
In all my 16 years, prosecutors say “use your common sense.” It tells you that Hal Neilson would never risk what he would have had to risk? What ws the payout? What would he gain?
He told you project sounded nice, would be interesting. Wouldn’t have to put money up front, because there would be a payout in many years. Why? Because he lost both of his parents in their 50s, and he’s had heart surgery himself. Who was he thinking about when he called Mike Turner? Did he say it was the property he was going to work in? He told Turner what he thought he needed to know. That was full disclosure.
But it’s easy to look at black and white documents. In Baton Rouge or Florida. That doesn’t tell you his intent – what he was thinking. You can’t get inside someone’s head.
Look at their actions and their reputation. Hal Neilson has offered evidence of good action, as his reputation as a good citizen. It may give rise to a reasonable doubt, that you might think someone of his character commit such a time.
Would Hal Neilson ever commit such a crime? No.
Howell said reviewed his personnel file, but she couldn’t say what was in it. I said, anything make you think that this is a man who is 6 weeks from retirement, that after giving his life to the service of this country would wake up one day and turn into a criminal for money?
Where is the evidence of that? He took a huge pay cut a few years ago? Why? Because his family was in Oxford – a good safe town. Could he have made a lot more money going to Washingotn, D.C.? Yes. He told you allthat mattered was his ability to pay his bills. He’s got a great credit score.
You have to answer, deliberate about intent. Judge this man, not by what’s on paper, but by what’s in his heart. Judge this man, by the life he has lived, by the character he has obtained through hard work and integrity. Witnesses who knew Hal. What did they tell you?
Pam Sherwood says he loves God and loves his family. Does someone like that just suddenly turn around? No, no, he does not.
We all know from testimony, he let his interests be known. Never tried to hide it. Had a hundred ways he could hide it legally. He had permission. It might have been wrong, but he had permission.
Mike Turner – this man, who has lied, has forged signatures. He intentionally lied, signed someone else’s name. That is not a mistake. (showed CFDR report where Turner signed on wrong dates).How as he robbed of a full review? That’s how he was robbed. Gomez said he would have sat down with him, and we wouldn’t be here.
If Hal had adequate guidance, we wouldn’t have been here. Is he going to risk his life nd the future of his four children? Absolutely not.
Not one person said anything about money motivating him. He’s motivated by the love of his family, by the security he’s given almost 21 years of his life.
Interesting .. in their effort to convince you that Hal was trying to hide this, I guess they want you to overlook Howell… how this began. It began when someone went to the chancery clerk’s office and pulled land records. (RS – NOT IN EVIDENCE – SUSTAINED) Mr. Neilson put his interest out there for the world to see.
On April 3, 1989, Hal told you he stood in Quantico, Va., and swore to his FBI oath. Well and faithfully discharge the duties of this office.
That’s what he did. That what he’s done. I know it. You know it. Remember. Remember Hal Neilson’s heart. That shows you what happened, not paperwork.
When you do, you’ll find him not guilty. (Several women weeping on defense side. Neilson’s wife with tears in her eyes. Teenage daughter, too.)
3:01 – MICHAEL
I told you I was going to turn Mr. Neilson over to you, to decide what happens to him when this case is over.
Salomon said our defense would be smoke and mirrors, that we would be trying to deflect the actual facts on to other people
Bourgeois said to make this a case about Mike Turner, blame other people. As I heard him say that, first thing that came to my mind was Exhibit 100 – (shows it to them). Exhibit, is a statement that was made by the government. Not by Neilson. This statement, is what marketing people say is a subliminal message – saying that Neilson was trying to do something wrong. (describes action as a sale).
I say, that is not the truth. Mr. Neilson never, not one time, describe this transaction as a sale. Not one time. Mr. Covington did. Not Neilson.
And speaking of Mr. Covington. He was brought here under a grant of immunity. I wrote down what that means – if Mr. Covington takes this stand and he lies, he’s going to gehammered. He has got to tell the truth. Well, I find that interesting. Interesting that Mr. Covington didn’t get hammered. So, he must have told the truth.
Here’s what Mr. Covington said about Exhibit 100 – he said, I wrote the check and put it in ACM properties because I wanted to protect my interest. Mr. Neilson wasn’t on C&G account, so I needed to wrote thru ACM to protect myself. Then he wrote the check to Mr. Neilson.
We see a lot of things that make Mr. Neilson look like a bad guy, but they’re not true. Not true at all.
Something else, smoke and mirror – last part of Bourgeois argument: Neilson asked if he was pushing for property for Covington or Grisanti? Back on Oct. ’08, Neilson said I didn’t do that.
Bourgeois said Hal pushed twice, told Howell he didn’t do it but that only when he was shown the document, did he remember what he had done.
Look at this – If he had lied to her or misrepresented to her – he could have been indicted for that. They want you to think he did other things bad. He just forgot. I’d hate to tell you that I could say what I did seven years ago. Does that mean we lied? Did something wrong?
Covington told you on stand, that when this process started with Grisanti, telling the truth, that not one time did Neilson do anything to try to give him an upper hand, share information, do anything help him acquire this property for the FBI building.
If he did nothing to assist Covington, then why would he say he wasn’t in those meetings?
McCoy said prosecutors use that “common sense” advice. I’m a former prosecutor, I can use it – use your common sense, why would he lie about something like that? If you’re going to lie, do it about something no one else knew about. Four other people knew.
He said, to this day, he didn’t remember being in that meeting.
He said, specifically, I have zero influence in those meetings. Is that a lie? It’s what he believes to this day.
He didn’t lie to you, and he didn’t lie to her. Neither time.
Here’s when you can lie – when Ms. Howell puts a tape recorded on Dino Grisanti’s phone. He has an attorney. They agree for Dino to record a conversation with Neilson. The only person tht doesn’t know it’s recorded is Neilson . OBJECT – SUSTAINED.
(APPROACH – OBJECCTION OVERRULED)
Howell said that when Neilson talked to Grisanti, he said to tell them the truth. He told Dino he had permission.
Integrity is doing the right thing when no one’s around. No one was around in Neilson’s conversation with Dino, in Neilson’s mind. He said nothing wrong. Not the first thing.
Covington – not one time did Neilson try to influence anybody.
Hal’s said: I asked Mike Turner if I can own rental property that FBI is tenant. He siad Mike Turner said, yes you can. Talked about what could and couldn’t do. That’s been Hal’s version every time.
Turner testified to grand jury twice. What grand jury didn’t know, he didn’t tell them he wasn’t doing his job – had forged names on documents, had sent in certification that was wrong. But he came bak second time. They needed to clear it up, so he came back the second time.
This case isn’t about mike Turner… but he said Hal never had that conversation. Hal Neilson says he did.
First time to grand jury, about conversation. He said “I don’t recall.” A year later, we know Turner wasn’t doing his job. guess what? All of a sudden, Turner testifies this way, said “no” didn’t have conversation with Hal Neilson. Why changed? At that time, Mike Turner was worried about Mike Turner. He’s broke the law, too.
Through this whole time, I don’t know about any IOG investigation of Mike Turner. Not a one. Why? They needed his testimony.
I asked Ms. Howell how many interviewed. She said at least 25. Thousands of documents. All that turned into all this (pats box with documents at bench).
Let’s assume this C&G involvement came in 2004 – we know that FBI moved into the building Aug. 2004. From 2004 to Aug. 05, the only thing that they claimed Neilson did as conflict was this: They claim Neilson was involved with the punch list and with the unfinished bay area. That’s is.
Not only are those the only two things to charge him with, but after this time in ’05, they had ’06, ’07, ’08 to look at on Mr. Neilson. That’s it. That’s what he substantially did wrong. He’s got to substantially participate. Other things going on, but if Neilson was such a bad guy and put money in his pocket, don’t you think there’d be something other than a punch list and this bay area?
Here is the punch list, and Mr. Neilson didn’t create the punch list. Neilson reviewed, This is it. This is his conflict of interest – he looked at it, after being directed to, then explains what the owners are to do, after being asked to look at it by his superiors.
Mr. Mize – I agree with what he said and his determination. But res of the exhibit goes on this way: Mize will coordinate with Turner to determine if all work is completed.
The major part of this list was to be done by Mize. What Neilson did could have been done by anybody.
(Reads rest of e-mail) That wasn’t Mr. Neilson. That was somebody else. He wasn’t lining his pockets. He was letting FBI use the storage place for free.
Substantial? Tried to make it sound like he was going to have a holiday over this – line his pockets with money? He wasn’t lining anything, he was being told by superiors.
This was a year after occupied the building.
Here’s where instructions come in that are substantial: Langlois advised to get written support for acquisition, Mize would send request to FBI HQ. Neilson was to ask owner about amount of lease for extra space. He says the FBI can get it for less than $900 that you may think it’s worth.
He didn’t make a commitment to anybody. He didn’t promise anything. Covington didn’t say he was doing anything wrong.
May 16, 1983, I graduated from law school at University of MS. To this day, I have tried numerous cases around this state. To this day, I’ve never represented a client like the one sitting there. The kind of work I do, the FBI has always been my enemy. I’ve always had great respect for them, because of what they do for us. But they’ve always been on the other side of what I do.
Usually, no emotion when FBI testifies. In this case, I’ve been able to see the person that he is and not the profession that he serves. They’re the best. They’ve been check out. They’re the best. Bt if you take away their profession, you see they’re husbands and daddies and neighbors. They’re people like you and I.
They’re people who can make mistakes. Who are held to a high standard. But being held to a higher standard doesn’t make somebody perfect. Hal Neilson isn’t perfect. He’s also not a criminal.
He’s a good man, with a good heart. That’s who Hal Neilson is.
We ask you to return a verdict. Five counts back there, we ask you to write the words Not guilty (repeats 5 times.) Thank you. 3:34.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for privilege to stand before you to complete this case.
Ancient Greek philosophers have 3 principals of the universe – logic, ethics and passion of the defense. But passion is not a basis for making a decision. About his family.
As I said, ask yourself some questions: Do you want your FBI agents to do what he’s done? Do you expect them to reveal outside positions? What do you expect of the many who holds that badge?
Lots of defense suggestions about why government doesn’t have a case. People of U.S. bring this case and ask you to consider the facts.
Neilson did what I predicted in my opening statement. Confuse the issues. Say government doesn’t have evidence. Try to distract you by blaming other people.
First, he has told you that everybody else is a liar – Nix, Hite, Heath, Pearson, Turner. MCCOY – OBJECTS – NOT WHAT NEILSON SAID – OVERRULED
That’s the first line of defense. Do those ladies look like they would lie about those meetings?
Judge read to you about determining believability of witnesses, including Mr. Neilson. Did the person impress you as honest? Any reason not to tell the truth? A personal interest in the outcome? Have a good memory?
Compare people like Mrs. Pearson to Mr. Neilson on the stand.
Second defense: ignorance, his own. He says don’t convict me because I didn’t know that. You are an attorney. Access to law books. Opportunities to ask questions. He pretends to be ignorant of the rules. He’s blaming others for not training him.
Any lack of intent comes from putting on blinders himself. If you choose to be blind, that is the intent you need to convict.
Who else has he blamed? People suppose to review reports didn’t tell him he was doing anything wrong. Duty to report truthfully is on Mr. Neilson. He’s an experience veteran of the FBI management chain of command. Could read those instructions. He chooses to use those words – he robbed Jenkins. Gomez others by not putting those words C&G.
He knew he was about to borrow a pot full of money, had 50,000 reasons to say those things.
He claims he was trapped by Ms. Howell. He’s more experienced. He’s no babe in the woods, can’t claim that when you’re a 20-year veteran of the FBI. He chose to step into it.
They say – we chose to make a recording. It is lawful and proper. Pointing the finger is trying to distract your attention for Mr. Neilson standing up for what he did.
On trial for his choices, his conduct. It is he who stands before the Bar of Justice today.
For him to tell you that in 2006, he wrote out all his liabilities. But when he put it in, he blamed it on a computer glitch. Same as my kids say – The dog ate my homework. That’s not a legal defense. Think about it. When you fill it out on computer and you don’t look to see if it’s printed out? That’s not the work of an experienced man.
Distraction – reported on some security disclosure reports. It was 2007 and 2008. He’s already under investigation. Before that, he said he was in on the building since 2002. Oh, but he changes it, says it was a typo.
BEsides those defenses, he proposes that the government is evil. I know, I don’t like the IRS either, but I don’t do what Mr. Walsh does to get a larger return. Filed 2004 report just two weeks ago. Walsh said it took about 20 minutes. Why did it take him six years? How credible is that?
It’s revisionist history. Changing the game. Manipulating the information, so as to deceive you and to deceive the honor of this court.
Let’s talk about exhibit Michael displayed. He’s focussing on title of document. Forgive me, I put that title on there. Facts – Neilson took a check and turned that check over. He picked up that pen and signed his name and bank account number. Take a check that represents a phony sale, and hide behind it by saying it came from ACM, so it didn’t come from C&G.
That’ s playing games with words.
He sid he did not push for C&G on certain property. Are you kidding me? He took their money and he had no interest? He sits here and said he didn’t know Covington was paying the bills at ACM but he got past-due notices. But they go away. Where does he think the money is coming from? It’s coming from the U.S. Treasury.
He’s sitting in a building and says everybody knows he’s an owner. Claims FBI knew because he didn’t hide it. He’s got to tell the chain of commend. He’s trying to hide in open sight. Expects somebody to find a needle in a haystack?
He said he didn’t read the rules on one part but did on another part, that the form may have misled me.
Mr. Turner: Defense has focussed on him. Want to embrace him and say he gave OK. Next, say Neilson never told him it was Oxford FBI building. Judge’s instructions will tell you that was not full disclosure and you have in fact committed a crime.
Ladies and gentlemen, this case is about financial reports and about Mr. Neilson telling the truth. Not about anybody else but him. Not about his passion or his family. He gave you reasons. He said I’m not going to live a long time. I want an investment for my family and my children. It was simple old greed.
I asked you what was motive? Hope to get the pot at the end of the rainbow, simple old greed. Every time GSA pays money, that loan goes down and his equity goes up.
Hold him accountable for his choices and his conduct. He did it, and there’s not doubt about it.
Write on that verdict form: Guilty. 3:55 p.m.
JUDGE – Take a break. Don’t start until you’re all back together.
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(UPDATES AS POSSIBLE. For a detailed news recap, read Friday’s Daily Journal or watch NEMS360.com.)
ABERDEEN – Day 8 could be the final day in Hal Neilson’s trial on a five-count federal indictment that he intentionally lied about his financial interests in the Oxford FBI Building.
The trial began Nov. 8 with Judge Sharion Aycock presiding.
(BELOW IS A ROLLING ACCOUNT OF COURT ACTION SO FAR TODAY. It will be updated as possible during extended breaks.)
Attorneys are: Government – Rene Salomon and Richard Bourgeois Jr. of the Middle District of Louisiana; and Defense – Christi R. McCoy of Oxford, and Ronald Michael and Seth Pounds of Booneville.
The jury is expected to report to the courthouse shortly before 10 a.m. First order of business, at 8:51 a.m., is development of legal instructions for the jury.
“We have lots to cover,” Aycock said, right off the bat.
Prosecutors reveal that they agree to offer the jury decisions only about felonies, not misdemeanors, which are less severe.
Attorneys for both sides agree the court should develop a generic index to help jurors navigate the substantial document evidence.
Aycock suggests that instead of the indictment, just the paragraphs specifying charges, should go to the jury room. Attorneys agree.
Third, she asks them to consider a verdict form. I indicated to you yesterday … ah … government, you’re not going to offer lesser charges to be included? Aycock said. Says her clerk has a theory that the more blanks you give a jury, the more confused its members become. This jury has 12 members with one alternate, after a 14th one was released for lack of transportation
Reviewed court’s instructions? Bourgeois says need to note that defendant testified. Defense has no objection.
Bourgeois says last night they compared government’s instructions with the court’s, and he says they asks to withdraw several of theirs, which were incorporated into the court’s instructions. Judge, I agree.
(They begin to walk through government’s instructions. McCoy asks for Neilson’s name to be used, instead of “the defendant.” Government? Judge says it’s easier to stay with reference to “the defendant.” Salomon says we defer to Your Honor. Judge says, let’s stay with the pattern. McCoy submits objection. It’s noted, judge says.)
As they consider each instruction, sides object to some. Judge offers suggestions to improve some. Some are passed for further work.
After they move through discussion of each side’s proposed instructions, with agreed adjustments, they return to disputed ones.
10:30 – Judge’s assistant distributes copies of amended instructions to both sides.
10:36 – Judge says waiting on a final witness. They go over the final instructions. Both sides say they have evidence index. She says she’s asked the government to “cleanse” the list “for it to be more benign.” Bourgeois says it began as an internal list and he asks the defense to look closely to ensure it’s more neutrally worded.
They review a document that describes the five counts of the indictment. Both agree with its contents. For the verdict form, they also agree.
On the amended instructions, over some objections, they ultimately accept what’s dermined by the judge.
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About 24 of Neilson’s friends and relatives are seated in the courtroom. New to the courtroom – with Michelle Neilson and her father on the front row – are the Neilsons’ three oldest children, all daughters. They also have a son, who is 5.
11:05 – Jury enters courtroom. (Neilsons’ eldest daughter begins to weep.) Government to present rebuttal witness(es).
SUSAN HOWELL – (McCoy asks if attys can approach. They do. 11:06.)
11:07 – Salomon to question.
RS – asks if she heard Neilson’s testimony yesterday. Did he call you in July ’08? SH – yes he did. I didn’t return that call. He called again. Returned his call that day. Yes, I did listen to his voice mail before I returned the call. He said he wanted to speak with me, was under investigation by FBI, wanted to clear this up, but if it was about FBI building, he already had permission.
SM – called on my cell phone. My boss was witness to conversation. Wanted him to know it was a potential criminal matter and he needed to realize that. Neilson said he was informed about a conflict of interest investigation, told to call me. Said he had spoken to (several names) and had received permission from Mike Turner before the GSA process got started.
SM – didn’t tell him to hire an attorney. Told him, let me talk to the witnesses. Says she didn’t mislead him in the phone call. Didn’t try to trick him, acted in good faith. I take my oath very seriously. Did not know if Neilson had an atty at the time.
SM – When spoke to him Oct. 8, 2008, he had an attorney with him. About 70 days lapsed between conversations. Says she brought confidential financial disclosure reports. I showed him all the reports. Said he had days to reference reports. His lawyer seemed that he had referenced some reports. Did not try to trick, lie to him at any point. Says “absolutely did not.”
RS – did you interview Dino Grisanti? Use him in undercover capacity? SH – yes I did. For a telephone conversation. Motive? To seek the truth and fin the facts. Review and if necessary, I turn them over to the prosecution.
RS – mistreated Neilson? SH – absolutely untrue.
RS – did Neilson mislead you? SH – about permission, about participation in meetings, about the first site owned by Covington and Grisanti. After the interview, says she would have spoken to him again, if he had called. But he did not. He was asked to produce reords, and he did.
RS – Did you write “sale” on that $50K check? SH – absolutely not.
RS – Heard Neilson’s testimony. Any other matters she wishes to respond to?
SH – I would like to respond. I am a fact finder and I seek the truth. Allowing him to look at documents? We reviewed the confidential reports.
RS – Marching orders? SH – mine are to find the facts and seek the truth. At end, we asked if he had been treated fairly. He said yes, I know you are just doing your job.
RS – Your level of experience compared to his? SH – I am 15 years on the job. Neilson had 21 years on the job. Has investigated other law enforcement officials.
Cross-examination by McCoy.
CM – at end of interview, you said Hal told you you were just doing your job. That you brought CFDRs and allowed him to review them? But spent a lot of time talking about site selection process? SH – no, I didn’t. When he called the interview, I didn’t know where this was going. I didn’t know what we were going to talk about.
CM – but you did have in your possession the site selection forms? SH – had them at my office.
CM – when you came to Oxford, you knew Hal Neilson had signed documents seven years before? SH – I knew he had signed some.
CM – did he tell you he didn’t recall signing documents? SH – yes. I offered him, are you sure about those meetings? Again, he said they didn’t exist.
CM – did you offer the opportunity to refresh his recollection, by advising him that he had signed documents? SH – no I didn’t.
CM – you said you wouldn’t try to trick him. He called, you didn’t call him back right away. SH – I was t the FBI 100 anniversary luncheon with my boxx.
CM – July 29, you taped him without his knowledge. Next day, you allowed an attorney tape … OBJECT.. SUSTAINED.
CM – when Neilson said he knew you were just doing your job, did he know he was being recorded? SH – no he did not. He told me he got permission for the site …. he said he had permission during the GSA process.
CM – isn’t that what he told Dino Grisanti? SH – yes.
CM – were you aware he had given statements about permission from Mike Turner? SH – yes I was.
CM – said you didn’t advise him of prior statements, about his documents at meetings or records to refresh his memory. SH – CFDRs.
CM – didn’t he say he was shocked about lack of information on his forms, in your presence? Said something different from what he told you? SH – don’t know, would have to read the transcript. I don’t want to put words in Mr. Neilson’s mouth.
CM – (with transcript) You said that Neilson had 69 days to review anything that he might need to? Did he have access to those GSA documents? SH – believe he was given copies of documents. CM – but were those documents retained by GSA.
CM – do you know in Aug. ’08, do you know if Neilson had access to those documents? SH – don’t know. Had documents that he had signed.
CM – isn’t he charged with lying to you about what happened during that process? SH – lying about those meetings. CM – during site selection process? SH – yes
CM – said he misled you about his permission from Mike Turner. Expound, please. SH – believe he misled me because based on witness testimony, didn’t occur, then obtained permission about something before it even happened. CM – so that doesn’t make any sense, does it? SH – we thought that was a problem and asked again.
CM – five occasions? SH – five occasions where we talk about permission and he makes reference to got it from Mike Turner. Right out of the box, Mr. Neilson said we got permission at least six years ago, which was before site selection.
CM – can people be mistaken on dates? SH – it can happen, but I think that’s a big thing to be mistaken on. CM – really? If he had any reference or guide, don’t you think he could have cleared that up? SH – he said he had talked to Brad Walsh, John Covington and Dino Grisanti, so I figure he had his dates clear.
CM – and you agree there are lots of dates that he says “I’m not sure?” SH – lots of dates, I’m not sure about that.
CM – but agree on more than one occasion on Oct. 8, he said he wasn’t sure about a date? SH – sure
CM – you said he misled you about the site selection in pushing for property owned by Grisanti and Covington. Tell me about that. SH – he said only pushed for North Lamar. I asked if he had pushed even slightly for Grisanti-Covington property? He told me he had not. I said, have you ever? He told me he had not.
CM – said had not pushed for site because it was owned by Dino and John? SH – that’s what he said.
CM – you accepted Mike Turner’s version that didn’t give permission? You’ve concluded that conversaton with Mike Turner never happened. SH – evidence consistent that it didn’t happen.
CM – how do you calculate Mr. Turner’s credibility in that? SH – you just have to calculate…
CM – why is Turner more credible than Neilson? SH – not going to make determination for you. His statements were extremely inconsistent. Not basing totally on what Mike Turner said.
CM- agree Turner isn’t credible? OBJECTION – SUSTAINED
CM – statement you made the other day. Do you recall Mr. Michael asking you about how the investigation got started? OBJECTION – (PROCEED CAUTIOUSLY, JUDGE SAYS.
CM – compared your experience. As far as you know, Neilson strives to tell the truth? SH – … uh, that’s not what happened in court.
CM – your testimony, was that you started this investigation, based on the fact … OBJECTION (Aycock asks attorneys to approach. 11:37 – She clearly doesn’t want anything about former U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee and his feud with Neilson to be blurted out one way or another.)
11:39 – CM back to question
CM – Ms. Howell, you said you were seeking the facts… interviewed a lot of people? SH – yes. CM – interview Neilson’s associates, any friends? SH – think some agents were his friends. CM – did you review his personnel file? Find anything to make you think he would lie? SH – no I didn’t.
11:41 – McCoy through. Salomon says United States rests.
Judge says she is about to instruct the jury on the law. Tells them they will have documents in the jury room and will have the instructions with them, to refer to during deliberations. Exhibit list also prepared. The list itself isn’t an exhibit, just an aid. Also, will have a copy of the charging counts of the original indictment, 5 counts.
JUDGE – She tells them there are two judges. She is one, the jury is the other. You are the judges of the facts. Your job is to consider whether the government has proven its case, beyond a reasonable doubt. All of you must agree. Your verdict must be unanimous. You must find that the defendant acted willfully and intentionally, to find him guilty. A separate crime is charged in each count.
12:15 – Judge excuses the jury for lunch. Closing statements will be presented after the break. Court to resume at 1:30 p.m.
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