Jurors deadlocked in lawmaker’s trial

Published 11:46 pm Friday, September 5, 2008

DECATUR – Jurors considering the fate of state Rep. Sue Schmitz in her federal fraud trial recessed for the weekend Friday after telling the judge they were deadlocked.

U.S. District Judge David Proctor sent jurors home shortly before 3 p.m. Friday, ordering them to return Monday morning and to expect instructions from him to keep working.

“The jury is still having trouble with deliberations,” Proctor said after reading the latest note from jurors. They had sent the judge a similar note Thursday.

The jurors deliberated for the third day Friday in the north Alabama Democrat’s fraud case. Schmitz is charged with using her political influence to obtain a job with a program that helps troubled teenagers and then rarely showing up for work.

The judge said he was not yet considering giving the jury what is known as a “dynamite charge” or “Allen charge,” which instructs jurors to try to reach a verdict.

Jurors had asked Proctor two questions on Thursday î including what to do if they were deadlocked. The judge discussed the questions with attorneys in private and did not make them public until Friday morning.

Proctor said the second question was a routine request to see a copy of one of the trial exhibits.

The trial at the federal courthouse in Decatur completed its 12th day Friday. Prosecutors claim several powerful Montgomery political figures helped her get the job, only to have her do almost no work. Prosecutors claim she filled out time sheets listing hours that she did not work.

Her attorneys argued that the 63-year-old from Toney worked hard and was responsible for businesses donating furniture and computer equipment to the Community Intensive Training for Youth program. The program receives state and federal funds to help teenagers referred there by juvenile courts.

According to state law, Schmitz will automatically lose her seat in the House if convicted. She is charged with four counts of mail fraud and four counts of fraud involving federal funds.

If convicted, each mail fraud charge calls for a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while each fraud charge calls for a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Federal sentencing guidelines don’t set a minimum penalty.