Former UDC president Robert L. Green goes on trial today in U.S. District Court here on charges of fraud, theft and five counts of lying to a federal grand jury investigating expenditures from special funds controlled by the D.C. mayor's office.
Green is the only person to go on trial as a result of the 18-month investigation into expenditures from Mayor Marion Barry's discretionary funds. Former Barry aide Robert Robinson pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor theft charges for using money from the fund to help pay for a fur coat that the mayor purchased for his wife. Robinson was sentenced last month to probation.
The main witness against Green will be another Barry adviser, Dwight S. Cropp, who controlled the funds before Robinson did and who also served as an assistant to Green at the university.
The central charges against Green revolve around the purchase of $1,994 big-screen projection television and a $1,399 stereo system, which Green took with him when he left the university's official residence.
Cropp had control of the funds at the time of the purchases, in 1983, and it was his version of events on which the grand jury relied in charging Green with five counts of lying.
Green, who was named UDC president in 1983, was forced out two years later amid allegations that he was misusing university funds. A different grand jury investigated those allegations but finished its term without returning any indictments.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Bernstein said during a pretrial hearing that the government will show Green took the items because of his "bitterness" toward the school.
Green allegedly used a series of secret transactions to pay for the electronic media equipment, including at one point money from two separate mayoral discretionary funds. Bernstein said the transactions were uncovered in April during the investigation of the discretionary fund. The television and stereo were seized by the FBI in May.
Green, who is now an administrator at Cuyahoga Community College near Cleveland, has denied he did anything wrong.
The trial, which is expected to last about a week, is emerging as something of a cause celebre as Green's longtime associates in the civil rights movement, including Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and Coretta Scott King, have mounted a fund-raising campaign on Green's behalf.
Green refused yesterday to comment on the campaign. Its organizers hope to raise from $50,000 to $75,000 to pay for Green's defense, according to a solicitation letter signed by Stoney Cooks, a former aide to Young who heads a consulting firm here.
Cooks, who worked with Green on the staff of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the late 1960s, said in an interview that about 35 friends and civil rights leaders were asked to lend $1,000 each to the defense fund, partly to underwrite a larger mailing to about 3,000 people. He would not disclose how much money has been raised.
R. Kenneth Mundy, Green's defense attorney, has refused to discuss his strategy in the case, but the fund-raising letters contends that the charges "are the result of the corruption, mismanagement and flaws inherent in the institutional administration of the university."
Edward G. Holland, acting university vice president under Green, also is expected to testify for the government.