Attorneys for both sides used literary analogies today to help summarize their arguments in the Bert Lance bank fraud trial.
But the prosecution used a James Bond thriller and the defense used the Bible.
In an exchange that seemed almost characteristic of the tone of the trial, chief presecutor Edwin J. Tomko, seeking to persuade the jury that the actions of Lance and his three codefendants were deliberate, quoted the character Goldfinger telling Bond that crossing paths once is happenstance, twice coincidence, but "three times, that's enemy action."
Lance attorney Nickolas Chilivas responded by calling the allegations about his client's financial statements a matter of different interpretations -- like the four interpretations of the Gosepls.
Tomko, who returned to the Goldfinger analogy throughout his nearly four-hour summary, characterized Lance's liberal policy of lending to family, friends and associates as "ask no questions, question no lies."
Chilivis, speaking deliberately in a heavy southern accent, made frequent religious references and said it was a "shame and a disgrace" that the Justice Department would put Lance through this trial.
Lance and his codefendants -- Thomas B. Mitchell, H. Jackson Mullins and Richard T. Carr -- are charged with a total of 22 counts of misapplying bank funds and filing false financial statements with banks. The alleged crimes took place in the mid-1970s, when Lance headed the First National Bank in his hometown of Calhoun, Ga., and the National Bank of Georgia in Atlanta.
Lance, who is accused in 12 of the 22 counts, could face 54 years in prison and fines of $60,000 if found guilty on all counts.
With the jury following him closely, Tomko described the government's allegation that Lancelot Co., a partnership of Lance and his wife, was simply a place to hide Lance's liabilities. The government contends that as a result of not showing his true liabilities, Lance filed false financial statements to get loans.
Tomko referred sarcastically to Lance's claim that when he ran for governor in 1974 he made a "full disclosure" of his finances.
"Six days before Mr. Lance's full disclosure to the people of Georgia, $710,000 of debt in the name of Bert Lance disappeared from the liability side of that statement," charged Tomko, who said these debts were put into Lancelot.
In contrast to the government's detailed reconstruction of Lance's financial statements, Chilivis held up a single updated adding-machine tape that he claimed accurately reflected Lancelot's finances.
Tomko portrayed Lance as using Mullins as a means to raise money. He said Lance arranged for the Calhoun druggist to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars, knowing that Mullins could not repay the money. The government introduced evidence that showed that Mullins never paid any interest or principal on the loans, most of which were used to finance Lance's political campaign.
Tomko's delivery was larded with facts and figures that the jury, for the first time during the 14-week trial, appeared to comprehend. Pacing the courtroom as he told the complex financial tale, Tomko often punctuated his remarks by pointing accusingly at the four defendants.
Defense attorney Chilivis' two-hour presentation was an emotional appeal to the jury, and flicked lightly over facts and figures.
As he did repeatedly during the trial, Chilivis stressed that his client, in lending money, relied more on a borrower's character than on collateral.
Chilivis characterized his client as a populist banker, and he told the jury that the government's approach in this case could "close the doors of every bank to everyone but the very rich."
The government attorneys believe that the most damaging testimony against Lance was presented by the officers of NBG, the Atlanta bank Lance once headed.
Today, Tomko recalled that NBG loan officers testified Lance ordered them to make certain loans against their better judgment. He said they were not allowed to make normal credit checks on Lance's family, friends and associates before lending the money.
"The loan officers at NBG said that no other chief executive, before or after, directed them to make loans," Tomko told the jurors.
The bitter antagonism that has surfaced during the long trial between Tomko and Chilivis bubbled up again today. Twice after the jury had left the room, Tomko angrily protested to presiding Judge Charles A. Moye Jr. about what he considered unethical remarks by Chilivis to the jurors.
As Chilivis closed his final arguments, he characterized Lance as a man who "loves his family, his God, and his country."
He told the jurors that if they found Lance guilty of even one count, "you will have ruined the reputation, the life, and the character of one of the South's finest men." He then concluded, "May God bless you and guide your deliberation."
Moye agreed to instruct the jury to disregard Chilivis' last remarks.
Attorneys for the other three defendants will make the final arguments for their clients Friday, after which Tomko will have one more hour to rebut defense claims. The case is to go to the jury Monday.