The bank fraud conspiracy trial of former budget director Bert Lance will convene as scheduled Monday, despite an appeals court ruling granting Lance a hearing on his long-standing claim that prosecutors leaked secret information about him to the press.
U.S. District Court Judge Charles A. Moye Jr. said in a hearing here today that he plans to start jury selection on Monday, but added that he might delay testimony until the questions by the appellate ruling are resolved. m
Moye gave lawyers for Lance and his three co-defendants until Friday to explain how alleged leaks from the Justice Department to the press -- the subject of the appelate ruling -- could have influenced the grand jury.
Defense lawyers argued before Moye that the ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reactivates their motion to dismiss the 33-count indictment because of alleged grand jury leaks. They asked Moye to hold a hearing on that motion, and allow them to subponea reporters and grand jurors to determine the source and impact of the publicity surrounding the Lance investigation.
Moye said, however, that he sees the appellate ruling as a separate issue from the motion to dismiss. The ruling ordered that Lance get a hearing on his charge that prosecutors should be punished for allegedly violating grand jury secrecy rules.
"So far, I remain convinced that bias and prejudice must be shown to dismiss an indictment," Moye said.
The news articles cited by the 5th Circuit as evidence of possible Justice Department leaks do not display "such egregious government misconduct to come close to warrent a dismissal." Moye said. "The test is one of taint or bias with respect to the grand jury."
He said he will decide whether to hold a hearing on the dismissal motion after defense lawyers explain on Friday how they hope to prove that the grand jury's impartiality was undermined.
Lance was indicted last May 23 along with three north Georgia business and banking collegues: contractor Thomas Mitchell of Dalton: pharmacist H. Jackson Mullins of Calhoun; and former bank president Richard T. Carr of Ringo. They are charged in a banking fraud conspiracy allegedly involving $20 million in loans to themselves, their families and associates.
The four men are also charged with a total of 32 other federal banking law violations.
They have pleaded innocent to all charges.