A defense attorney argued Monday that fraud charges against prominent African American financier Nathan A. Chapman Jr. should be dismissed because prosecutors rejected five African Americans during jury selection at the start of his trial.

The defense, arguing "prosecutorial misconduct" in papers submitted at U.S. District Court on the first day of jury deliberations, said the government used five of its six allotted peremptory challenges -- challenges for which cause need not be shown -- to dismiss African American women. The 12-member panel includes two African American men and one Hispanic woman.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio's office disputed that the jurors were dismissed because of their race. She said that the defense registered the same complaint at the conclusion of jury selection, in a closed proceeding, and that the court found it "without merit."

Chapman, a politically connected investment manager whose portfolio once included $140 million from the state pension fund, is charged with 32 felony counts -- mail fraud, wire fraud and other crimes. He is accused of defrauding the pension fund by investing the money in his own companies, losing nearly $5 million from the fund in the process, and of defrauding his companies of more than $500,000.

Judge William D. Quarles Jr. gave the government 14 days to respond to the defense request. Such motions, rarely granted, are typically filed to preserve issues for appeal.

The jury is scheduled to resume deliberations Tuesday.