Former U.S. budget director Bert Lance rested his defense at his bank fraud trial yesterday after character testimony from the father of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The case could go to the jury by Thursday.

The defense lasted three days, half of it devoted to testimony from Lance himself. Prosecutors presented 159 witneses and tens of thousands of documents before resting their case last week. The trial opened three months ago.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. said Lance's reputation for honesty, integrity and thruthfulness was "superior."

"i know Mr. Lance as a family man," the 80-year-old retired minister said. "i know him as a businessman. I know him as a religious individual. And to me, that's the man."

Lance is charged in 12 counts: 10 alleging misapplications of bank funds in loans to his relatives and friends and two alleging false financial statements by Lance to an Atlanta bank.

At the end of the government's case, U.S. District Court Judge Charles A. Moye threw out 10 of 22 original charges against Lance.

In his testimony, Lance defended his decision to loan money to his relatives and friends. He said the financial statements submitted to the Trust Company Bank in connection with a $175,000 loan were as accurate as he could make them.