The longest criminal trial in Georgia history drew to a close today as attorneys completed final arguments in the government's bank fraud case against former U.S. budget director Bert Lance and three codefendants.
The jurors, none of whom has missed a day in the 14-week trial in U.S. District Court here, will begin deliberating Monday. A veteran prosecutor called the jury's attendance record extraordinary, and said it showed the jurors have "a real eagerness to serve."
The jurors today heard the attorney for defendant Richard T. Carr describe his client as a "dreamer" who borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars from banks headed by Lance to try to turn his dreams into reality.
"Maybe he was a dreamer, maybe he had poor financial judgment, but that doesn't make him a crook," said public defender Richard Young of his court-assigned client.
Chief prosecutor Edwin J. Tomko, in summarizing the government's case, said of Carr: "He took his dream in the form of a financial statement and gave it to the banks to get them to give him money."
Then he asked the jurors, "Was that a dream or was that a scheme?"
The government has charged Carr, Lance and the other two defendants, H. Jackson Mullins and Thomas M. Mitchell, with 19 counts of misapplying banks funds and filing false financial statements. Twelve of the counts applied to Lance, and the alleged crimes took place in the mid-1970s, while he headed First National Bank in Calhoun, Ga., and the National Bank of Georgia in Atlanta.
Like Lance's attorney in his closing arguments Thursday, attorneys for the other defendants portrayed their clients as outstanding citizens of their communities.
The most dramatic appeal to the jury was made by attorney Erwin Mitchell on behalf of his two clients, his cousin, Thomas Mitchell, who was Lance's trustee when he went to Washington and Mullins, a former Calhoun druggist.
Attorney Mitchell said his cousin made a mistake as Lance's trustee in removing stock that was collateral for one loan and double pledging it as collateral for another Lance loan.