U.S. District Court Judge Charles A. Moye Jr. today in effect struck nine more counts in the government's bank fraud case against former federal budget director Bert Lance and three codefendants.
Governments prosecutors, who rested their case in the 13-week-old trial today, announced that two other counts against Lance and a codefendant also would be dropped.
Proceeding count by count through the 33-count indictment, Moye ruled that the government failed to prove five charges of misapplication of bank funds, three charges of false statements to banks and one charge of making a false entry in bank records.
Lance, who originally faced 22 counts, still faces 12, two of them involving false statements to obtain loans and 10 involving criminal misapplication of bank funds. The former budget director had been indicted on one count of falsifying bank records, but Moye dismissed that count today.
The action came after the judge rejected a defense motion to dismiss all of the 33 counts in the federal indictment against Lance and his codefendants -- former Calhoun, Ga., druggist H. Jackson Mullins, Lance business associate Thomas M. Mitchell and Richard T. Carr, a onetime banking associate of Lance.
Then Moye began going through the 71-page indictment, count by count, inviting arguments on each. The judge formally threw out today two counts he had previously said were not supported by evidence. He withheld their official removal from the case until the government rested its case today.
One was a criminal conspiracy count involving all four defendants that Moye said last week he would throw out. Another was a count alleging false loan statements by Lance and Mullins.
Prosecutor Edwin Tomko said the government had decided to drop one count that accused Lance of submitting a false financial statement and one count that accused Lance and Carr of misapplication of bank funds.
Among the counts eliminated by Moye was a charge of misapplication of funds against Lance of a $100,000 loan to admitted embezzler Billy Lee Campbell at the Calhoun First National Bank in February 1975. Evidence showed the loan was paid off two years later with a $250,000 loan at the National Bank of Georgia, which also involved a misapplication charge.
Moye threw out the first but retained the second, saying, "We will get to the heart of the transaction that way."
Nearly half of the counts in the original indictment against the four defendants involved allegations of misapplication of bank funds.
Lance said that Moye's action eliminated charges that never should have been in the indictment.
"The whole process shows there's a great deal of allegations put into the indictment for the purpose of inflaming public opinion and trying the case in the press rather than in court," he said. "A lot of it has come out and I'm very pleased about it. I think all the charges ought to come out."
Lance, if convicted, now would face a maximum penalty of 54 years in prison and fines totaling $60,000.
The jury was dismissed about 1:30 p.m. today, after the federal prosecutors had finished presenting their case and before the judge began his review of the indictment.
The government rested its case against the four defendants with little fanfare earlier in today's session.
The 160th government witness, an FBI agent, testified that Lance had failed to list more than $600,000 in contingent liabilities on financial statements used to obtain loans in 1974, 1975 and 1977.
One of those financial statements was given to the Senate during the 1977 hearings to confirm Lance as federal budget director.
Most of the government witnesses have been officers of the dozens of banks where Lance, his codefendants and his relatives obtained loans. Prosecutors also relied heavily on the bank records themselves in an attempt to show that Lance arranged illegal loans to his friends and family and lied to get loans at banks whose actions he could not directly influence.
The last five witnesses in the government case were FBI agents who prepared charts tracing loans alleged to be illegal and analyzing the true financial condition of the defendants at the time they submitted statements to banks.
Defense attorneys are expected to begin presenting their case Thursday. Lance is expected to testify on his own behalf, but his attorneys would not confirm that he is on their witness list, which is sealed.
Defense presentation for all four defendants are expected to last three to four weeks.