A federal court jury is expected to begin deliberations today on all eight criminal charges against former UDC president Robert L. Green after U.S. District Judge Norma H. Johnson refused yesterday to dismiss the fraud count.
The other charges against Green, 54, are mail fraud, theft and five counts of perjury.
They involve a $1,399 Sansui stereo system and a $1,994.90 Hitachi projection television that were paid for with city funds and placed in the official University of the District of Columbia residence during Green's two-year tenure as president. He has said he took them with him when he left that post, but said his role was that of a custodian.
The government's case, which rests largely on the testimony of Dwight S. Cropp, a top aide to Mayor Marion Barry, alleges that Green got money from Barry's special mayoral accounts to cover the cost of the items, promised to leave them in the university house and to repay the mayor's accounts with UDC funds.
At the same time, according to the indictment, Green led university officials to believe that he was paying for the items with his own funds.
"It's not a happy day for the government," Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Bernstein said during closing arguments, referring to prosecutors' decision to try Green, who has gained a national reputation for civil rights work, on what many see as minor charges.
"But we live by a book of rules," Bernstein said. "The law is the law and it has to be applied in every case . . . . Everyone should be treated equally."
Bernstein emphasized to the jury that the government's case was based on more than Cropp's testimony, arguing that it was buttressed by that of other witnesses and numerous documents.
He also asked the jurors to judge witnesses' credibility based on how they appeared on the witness stand, determining for themselves whether the witnesses were "responsive to questions, arrogant, relaxed . . . or argumentative."
It was an obvious allusion to Green's 1 1/2 days testifying in his own defense in which he was repeatedly instructed by Johnson to answer questions rather than challenge Bernstein and ask his own questions.
Bernstein suggested that Green lied to the grand jury investigating Barry's special account, and thus the purchase of the television and stereo, in an attempt to talk his way out of theft charges after having been "caught red-handed with stolen property."
But Green's attorney, R. Kenneth Mundy, maintained that Green told the truth before the grand jury and during the trial, describing his client as representative of "everything that stands for decency and honesty and integrity," as attested to by character witnesses including Coretta Scott King and Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.).
Mundy tried to shift attention away from Green and onto Cropp, whom he described as the "Svengali in all of that" and the "source and cesspool of information," and Barry, suggesting that Green was made a scapegoat in an effort to protect the mayor from allegations of improper spending in what Mundy called the "highly suspect mayor's fund."
Citing Green's civil rights work in the late 1960s in Alabama and Mississippi, Mundy implored the jurors to "search your hearts" before making a "decision you are prepared to live with for the rest of your life."