Jury in Schmitz trial favored conviction 11-1

Published 1:57 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2008

DECATUR (AP) – The jury unable to reach a verdict in the federal fraud trial of state Rep. Sue Schmitz was split with only one person opposing conviction, according to jurors.

The lone holdout, Earl Jordan of Huntsville, told The Birmingham News and The Huntsville Times that he didn’t think the 63-year-old Schmitz intended to commit fraud. Jordan also said he didn’t believe Schmitz received enough direction from supervisors.

“In my heart of hearts, I feel she is innocent. I don’t think she’s that kind of lady,” Jordan said.

U.S. District Judge David Proctor declared a mistrial Monday after jurors deliberated for 24 hours over four days and sent the judge three notes saying they were deadlocked. The mistrial came on the 13th day of the trial at the federal courthouse in Decatur.

Schmitz, a Democrat from Toney, was accused of using her political position to obtain a job with a two-year-college system program to help troubled teenagers and then rarely showing up for work.

Schmitz’s attorney Buck Watson of Huntsville declined to comment Wednesday on the jury’s 11-1 split.

“I maintain she’s not guilty and don’t feel it would be appropriate to comment further,” Watson said.

U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said prosecutors intend to bring the case back to trial.

“I thank the jury for their service. While disappointed they were unable to reach a verdict, the United States stands ready to retry this important case at the court’s earliest setting,” she said in a statement.

Federal prosecutors accused Schmitz of using her political connections to arrange a job for herself with the Community Intensive Training for Youth program, which tutors young people referred by the juvenile court system. Prosecutors said Schmitz was paid $177,251 over three years but did little or no work in her public affairs position.

Schmitz was charged with four counts of fraud involving a program that receives federal funds and four counts of mail fraud. She was the first member of the Alabama Legislature to go to trial in connection with a wide-ranging federal probe of the two-year college system.

Jordan, a retired health and safety representative for a manufacturer, said the other 11 members of the jury were in favor of a “compromise” to find Schmitz guilty of one count of fraud.

“I couldn’t convict her,” Jordan said.

Jordan said he was impressed by defense testimony that Schmitz worked with businesses to get computers, office furniture and other items donated to the CITY program.

Jordan also said he had difficulty believing the testimony of former two-year college Chancellor Roy Johnson, who has pleaded guilty to money laundering, bribery and other charges. Johnson testified he struck a cooperation deal to exclude his family from being prosecuted and in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence.

“He’s trying to save his wife and his kids. … I just threw that out completely,” Jordan said of Johnson’s testimony.

Another juror confirmed the 11-1 split, but declined to discuss the deliberations.