UPDATE: Court hearing scheduled Monday in halted DBSI trial

jsowell@idahostatesman.comMarch 21, 2014 

The weeks-long DBSI trial in Boise was halted Thursday after the suicide of a key prosecution witness just two days after she testified. This file image from 2008 shows a property sign at the Northgate Shopping Center, which was then managed by DBSI.

FILE PHOTO

  • WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT SUICIDE

    If someone you know is in emotional crisis:

    Mental health experts urge you to call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

    Warning signs to watch for:

    • Talking about wanting to die.

    • Looking for a way to kill oneself.

    • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

    • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

    • Talking about being a burden to others.

    • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.

    • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly.

    • Sleeping too little or too much.

    • Withdrawing or isolating themselves.

    • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

    • Extreme mood swings.

    Other things you can do to help:

    • Do not leave the person alone.

    • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.

    • Listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.

    • Be nonjudgmental. Don't debate or lecture on the value of life.

    • Don't act shocked. This will put distance between you.

    • Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.

    • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.

    • Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.

    • Get help by calling the hotline or visiting Suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

    Source: Suicide Prevention Lifeline

CORRECTION: Though court minutes list a defense witness as being called Tuesday, the prosecution has not rested its case in the DBSI trial.

A hearing has been scheduled Monday in the halted DBSI fraud trial, but court officials wouldn’t say Friday whether the hearing will be open to the public.

“I don’t know at this time whether it’s going to be sealed (closed) or open,” said Kirsten Wilkinson, chief deputy of operations for U.S. District Court.

Prosecution and defense attorneys met with Chief District Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Friday morning. The meeting was not listed in a court calendar and did not appear in the online case file. Wilkinson declined to explain the legal justification for holding the private meeting without an opportunity for the public to attend.

The revised schedule comes after the death of an FBI agent who investigated officials from Meridian-based Diversified Business Services and Investments.

Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg confirmed Thursday that Rebekah E. Morse, 34, died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. A call reporting the death at a residence in the 7000 block of South Bogus Ridge Way came in to the Ada County dispatch center shortly after 8 a.m.

Morse testified for the prosecution in the criminal trial on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to court summaries.

DBSI President Douglas Swenson, company attorney Mark Ellison, and Jeremy Swenson and David Swenson — company secretaries who are sons of Douglas Swenson — are accused of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering. They are charged with a combined 89 criminal counts.

The defendants are accused of mismanaging money paid by investors and of hiding the company's true financial shape as it teetered toward bankruptcy in 2008. DBSI, founded in 1979, offered investments in shopping centers and office buildings and managed the buildings in exchange for a guaranteed payback of between 6 percent and 7 percent.

During Morse's appearance in court Tuesday, lawyers spoke with Judge B. Lynn Winmill outside the jury's presence, according to minutes entered into the case's official docket. Defense attorneys had sought access to her written notes, but Winmill ruled that prosecutors were not required to share the notes with the defense.

Morse's death threw the jury trial into limbo. As of Thursday evening, it was not scheduled to resume within the next week, according to a court calendar.

Attorneys in the case would not comment.

"The FBI mourns the loss of our friend and colleague, SA Rebekah Morse," said Special Agent William Facer from the FBI's Salt Lake City Division, which covers Idaho, Utah and Montana.

Click here for the Statesman's complete coverage of the DBSI trial

The Statesman's Cynthia Sewell, Katy Moeller and Audrey Dutton contributed. John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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