The jury in the bribery, conspiracy and perjury trial of Rep. Daniel Flood (D-Pa.) began deliberating yesterday afternoon after hearing 13 days of testimony in U.S. District Court here. After meeting about two hours, the jurors retired for the night.
Flood, 75, sat immobile and expressionless as he heard his lawyer make a final tearful plea for acquittal of "this elderly and frail man" whose actions were "from his point of view, totally innocent...."
Axel Kleiboemer, Flood's attorney, told the jury that the congressman has been accused by "the dregs," most notably Flood's former administrative assistant and chief prosecution witness Stephen B. Elko. Elko "conned my client and if you let him, he'll con you, too," Kleiboemer said in his summation.
With Elko's testimony as the center-piece, government prosecutors have portrayed a triangular relationship in which Elko, with "marching orders" from Flood, would literally market Flood's influcence as chairman of a powerful House Appropriations subcommittee. Elko allegedly would collect thousands of dollars in cash bribes from the people seeking favors and split the proceeds with Flood.
Six witnesses, including Elko, testified to making direct payments to the 16-term congressman as part of the scheme.
Government agency officials testified to the letters and calls they got from Flood's office on behalf of the alleged bribe-payers -- among them a foundation director, a housing developer, a banker, a trade school operator anf a New York rabbi who operated government-financed socil welfare projects.
"When you look at the big picture," said prosecutor Mark Tuohey, "influence buying, influence peddling and influence selling is what every withness has testified to... The one common denominator" for all the favorseekers "was the man at the top -- Daniel Flood."
In the end, neither side in the case produced any single, overwhelmingly decisive witness. Instead both relied on the cumultive impact of dozens of witnesses.
"If transaction after transaction," Tuohey said yesterday, "we have seen money placed in the hands of Deniel Flood."
With witness after witness, defense lawyer Kleiboemer said, there have been discrepancies in dates, contradictions in testimony and large-scale grants of immunity tha taken together make the case unbelievable.
Flood is the 14th member of Congress charged with crimes during the last two yesrs.