FBI agent's Boise courtroom texting unrelated to DBSI case

The trial of four executives appears back on track after Rebekah Morse's suicide, which followed accusations that she lied about using her phone on the stand.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comMarch 26, 2014 

  • 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

A senior FBI agent met with Rebekah Morse last Wednesday and told her that he supported her, hours after she was accused of lying to a federal judge.

Sometime after the agent left, Morse killed herself — temporarily halting the trial of four Diversified Business Services and Investments executives whom she had investigated.

Testimony in that trial resumed Tuesday, and newly unsealed court documents revealed more details about last week's events, while Chief District Judge B. Lynn Winmill was still working to address fallout from Morse's testimony and death.

Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Ernst Weyand said he met with Morse at her Southeast Boise home after she notified him that she had been accused of texting from the witness stand during an eight-minute sidebar conference in federal court.

In court, out of the jury's presence, Morse denied texting. She told Winmill that she had felt her phone vibrate and had turned the phone off after entering a password on the keypad.

Winmill relayed Morse's explanation to the jury. However, he seized the phone and had it placed in a court evidence locker until the matter was sorted out.

It turned out that Morse sent four text messages from the witness stand and received back an equal number, Winmill said Tuesday after reviewing the messages in his chambers. The messages were exchanged by Morse and her husband, David, the judge said. They talked about how long she expected to remain in court.

"It was innocuous banter back and forth with her husband," Winmill said. "It was not in any way connected with this case."

No other messages were sent by Morse while she was on the stand.

In an FBI report released by the court, Weyand said he met with the prosecution team handling the DBSI case and reviewed a court transcript of the questioning of Morse before going to her home that evening.

Weyand said he told Morse that the U.S. Attorney's Office also supported her. And he told her that Raymond Patricco, one of the prosecutors on the case, had told him that Morse was "the best FBI agent he had worked with."

The portion of the FBI report that talks about finding Morse's body the next morning was blacked out.

Winmill said a note was found with Morse's body, but he kept the contents of the note sealed.

The FBI report notes that defense attorneys grilled Morse during cross-examination. The defense suggested her investigation into alleged criminal action by four top DBSI executives was "shoddy."

Company president Douglas Swenson, attorney Mark Ellison and secretaries Jeremy Swenson and David Swenson — Douglas Swenson's sons — are charged with a combined 89 counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering related to the operations of the Meridian property management company.

One remaining challenge for Winmill is how to deal with Morse's disappearance from the case. On Tuesday he asked attorneys on each side to submit a proposed instruction for the jury regarding Morse's death and absence from the courtroom.

Testimony resumed Tuesday for the first time since Winmill called a recess Thursday after learning of Morse's death. A DBSI investor and a company official were questioned.

Josh Hoffman, DBSI's senior sales director, is scheduled to testify Wednesday. Prosecutors said he will be their final witness. The defense will begin its case next week, following a break on Thursday and Friday.

John Sowell: 377-6423,Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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