The credit line on a sketch accompanying yesterday's article about the Bert Lance trial incorrectly attributed the sketch to the Associated Press. The sketch was done by artist Peggy Gage.
An attorney for former budget director Bert Lance, on trial for a variety of fraud and conspiracy charges, said today his client was "too busy devoting himself to charity, to education, to his family religion, the community, the state and his country to have lied or cheated or conspired ... as the government contends."
In his two-hour opening statement, attorney Nickolas P. Chilivis told the six-man, six-woman jury that the government prosecutor had deceived them in his opening statement Monday with "half truths."
"The evidence will show that Mr. Bert Lance is one of the finest Christian gentlemen who ever lived in Georgia," his attorney said at in U.S. District Court here.
Lance and three codefendants are charged with 33 counts of conspiracy, misapplication of bank funds, falsifying loan applications and bank records and defrauding the government.
All have pleaded not guilty to the government's allegaton that they violated U.S. banking laws to obtain 383 loans from 41 financial institutions in an intricate conspiracy that began in 1970 and continued well after Lance left the Carter administration under press and congressional fire.
If convicted, Lance and the others could face long prison terms and heavy fines. The government's cases isconcentrated on transactions that took place before Lance's appointment as director of the Office of Management and Budget -- the years when he was president of the First National Bank in his hometown of Calhoun and the National Bank of Georgia in Atlanta.
If Lance had a fault, his attorney said, it was an uncritical generosity in lending bank funds. "The bank's policies were liberal and applied to everyone, not just to Lance's friends and family," Chilivis said.
He reminded the jury that the government was obliged to show that Lance intended to injure or defraud the banks in question. The attorney said evidence will show, instead, that Lance "used the banks to help people in the community."
An attorney for Richard Carr, one of Lance's codefendants, said in his opening remarks that Carr "had modeled his approach (to banking) on the most revered, respected, beloved man in northwest Georgia, Ber Lance."
Carr, who went to work for Lance in 1966 as a cashier at the Calhoun Bank, became president in 1973 of the Northwest Georgia Bank in Ringgold. The government contends Carr's promotion to the Ringgold job is central to its case of bank funds manipulation and conspiracy.
Prosecutor Marvin Loewy, in his opening remarks Tuesday, said Lance had installed Carr at the Ringgold bank as part of the plot. He also contended that Carr had "falsely claimed" a net worth of more than $900,000 to borrow from banks for personal investments, including stock in banks the Lance group was seeking to control.
Carr's court-appointed attorney, Richard Young, allowed only that his client committed "errors in judgment." Carr has "every intention" of paying off his debts, the attorney said. The loans outstanding reportedly now amount to several hundred thousand dollars.
An attorney representing the two other defendants Thomas M. Mitchell, who served as trustee of Lance's assets when the banker went to Washington, and Jackson Mullins, a former Calhoun druggist and Lance associate said he would wait until the conclusion of the government's case before deciding whether to make an opening statement on behalf of his clients.
The trial has not been colorless. Presiding U.S. District Court Judge Charles A. Moye Jr. repeatedly chastised defense attorney Chilivis for being "directly argumentative" in his opening remarks.
At one point, Chilivis claimed that Lance's liberal loan policies at Calhoun "made sharecroppers into farmers."
Moye, during a jury break, criticized Chilivis for referring to Lance's "philosophy of lending to sharecroppers when you know we have the wife of a former sharecropper on the jury."
The jury, composed of seven blacks and five whites, includes the 72-year-old wife of a retired sharecropper. Chilivis told the judge a sharecropper Lance had helped farm on his own would in fact be called as defense witness.