A U.S. court jury here today started deliberations in the first criminal trial resulting from the wide-ranging investigations of corruption in the General Services Administration.
Later this evening, after deliberating for three hours, the panel retired for the night without reaching a verdict. Deliberations are expected to resume Wednesday.
Testimony in the case ended abruptly this morning when the attorney for Frank N. Ellis, a GSA employe charged with bribery and defrauding the government, rested his case without presenting any witnesses.
"I want to remain silent... and there are no witnesses I wish to cal at this time," Ellis, a 34-year-old former manager of a GSA office supply center, told Judge Joseph H. Young in U.S. District Court here.
A total of 41 GSA employes have been charged with criminal offenses as a result of the continuing investigations of the massive federal housekeeping agency, and 33 of these have pleaded guilty to some criminal charge.
During the course of the week-old trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel M. Clements presented 19 witnesses, some of whom testified that they bribed Ellis with TV sets, a Bermuda vacation and $6,000 in cash, in return for which Ellis certified that the GSA received merchandise that actually was never delivered.
The jury deliberated more than three hours yesterday and then asked Judge Young if GSA had any records to show whether some of the goods ordered by Ellis were, in fact, delivered to GSA.
In response, Judge Young cited testimony of an FBI agent that the office supply firm's records show it never received the goods in question.
Ellis's attorney, P.Paul Corcoros, raised this point during his closing arguments. Calling Ellis "a victim of the system (at the GSA)," Corcoros said, "I can't go back and check what [office supplies] was delivered. The packing slips were thrown away."
Cocoros characterized the witnesses against Ellis as liars, schemers, and thieves who themselves stole $1 million from GSA.
A number of the witnesses against Ellis had either pleaded guilty to charges connected with this scheme or had received immunity from prosecution.
Corcoros attacked one witness -- H. David Levyne, president of the Maryland office suply firm that allegedly bribed Ellis -- saying, "Levyne has confessed to manupulating GSA store managers. He's a man who confessed to stealing $1 million from GSA. He's a man who confessed to altering records... and the government asks you to believe him."
Prosecutor Clements in his closing arguments said that the evidence in the case -- the records of GSA, and of the office supply firm, and the testimony of the witnesses involved in the case -- fits together "like a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle."
"When you look at the whole thing, it all comes together, and one face keeps coming up: that of Frank Norman Ellis," Clements told the jury.