Attorneys for former U.S. budget director Bert Lance are making two 11th-hour bids to nullify his indictment for banking fraud and conspiracy or to force a delay in his trial, which is scheduled to convene Monday.
In both efforts Lance's lawyers relied on a federal appeals court ruling this week that Lance deserves a hearing on his longstanding charge that the Justice Department improperly leaked confidential grand jury matters to the press.
The ruling reversed U.S. District Judge Richard Freeman of Atlanta, who had denied the hearing when Lance requested it last March, two months before the indictment was returned.
Henry F. Scheulke III, a former federal prosecutor now on Lance's defense team filed a motion and a brief on Thursday aimed at forcing Freeman to hold the hearing, according to the motion. Freeman is expected to rule on the request Monday morning, just before the scheduled start of jury selection in the criminal trial.
Meanwhile, Lance's lead defense lawyer, Nickolas Chilivis of Atlanta, sought to have the 33-count criminal indictment of Lance and three associates nullified by the federal judge due to preside over the trial.
Chilivis argued before District Judge Charles A. Moye Jr. that the appeals court ruling reopens Lance's motion to dismiss the indictment for alleged prosecutorial misconduct, including press leaks. He asked for a hearing on the issue and a delay in the trial.
If the hearing is granted, Lance's attorneys said, they plan to subpeona reporters, grand jurors and Justice Department lawyers in an attempt to prove that news articles based on the alleged leaks biased the grand jurors and invalidated the indictment they returned.
Chilivis gave Moye a written outline of his case today. After reviewing it in Moye's chambers, prosecutors declined to make a written response. The outline was not made public.
Moye told both sides that he will issue an order at 10:30 a.m. Monday on whether to hold a hearing.
The jury selection process -- also scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Monday -- will go forward regarless of the appellate court ruling, Moye said, but testimony will not begin until the issue is resolved.
Moye said in a hearing Wednesday that because the appellate ruling deals with civil contempt sanctions, he views it as separate from the criminal indictment. He said Chilivis would have to "make a leap" to establish that press leaks, if proved, biased or tainted the grand jury process.
Lance's North Georgia codefendants are Thomas Mitchell of Dalton, Richard T. Carr of Ringgolg and H. Jackson Mullins of Calhoun.