Hearing scheduled in halted DBSI fraud case

The future of the trial is murky after the death this week of an FBI agent. Officials are saying little about what happens next.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comMarch 22, 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

Court officials couldn't say Friday whether Monday's hearing in the halted proceedings 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 in Boise.

Testimony in the trial stopped Thursday after the body of FBI agent Rebekah Morse was found in her Boise home.

Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg said Morse, 34, died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

Diversified Business Services and Investments President Douglas Swenson, attorney Mark Ellison, and secretaries Jeremy Swenson and David Swenson, Douglas Swenson's sons, are accused of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.

Morse, who investigated the criminal allegations, testified in the case Tuesday and Wednesday.

It is unclear from court records whether Morse had finished her testimony or had been scheduled to return to the stand on Thursday.

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, who was assigned to answer media questions in the case, declined to explain the legal justification for holding the meeting without an opportunity for the public to attend.

A summary of the hearing is sealed and not available for public inspection. Attorneys involved declined to comment because of the closed hearing.

Winmill also issued an unknown order Friday. It was also filed under seal.

It does not appear that any testimony will be heard during Monday's hearing. The jury is not mentioned in the online hearing notice, but appeared in previous notices on days when the jury was present in the trial that is ending its sixth week. It was expected to last eight to 10 weeks.

Last week in court, Winmill told an attorney for a former DBSI subsidiary that the presumption is that the nation's federal courts are open to the public. The comments came when the Wavetronix attorney, Blake Atkin, asked the judge to seal financial documents that were to be introduced in the trial.

Winmill had allowed the courtroom to be cleared during a large portion of last fall's lawsuit between Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center and St. Luke's Health System over its purchase of the Saltzer Medical Group. He also allowed the litigants to keep some financial records from being publicly disclosed.

The Statesman and other media outlets objected to the court closures in the hospital trial. An appeal is pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Winmill mentioned the hospital case when he addressed Atkin in court last week. The judge this week denied Atkin's motion to seal the records.

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: IDS_Sowell

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