DBSI defense: Can FBI agent be trusted?

During closing arguments, one attorney casts doubt on the lead investigator, who committed suicide.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comApril 8, 2014 

Rebekah Morse, whose work helped produce a combined 89 charges against four DBSI officials, told a federal judge that she was turning her phone off while on the stand during a sidebar conversation between the judge and attorneys.

In fact, she was texting her husband. Jeffrey Robinson, the attorney representing defendant Mark Ellison, said jurors should consider that when evaluating the testimony Morse gave about the Meridian property management company and the defendants.

“Agent Morse was the face of this investigation,” Robinson said. “Agent Morse was willing to look Judge Winmill in the eye and lie about her testimony.”

Morse killed herself on March 19 — seven weeks into the court proceedings and hours after giving testimony.

Chief District Judge B. Lynn Winmill informed the jury on Friday that Morse had not answered truthfully when she denied texting, but jurors have not been told about her death. The judge said Tuesday that he will inform jurors after the verdict is delivered, and the court will offer counseling services to any members of the jury who might need it.

DBSI legal counsel Ellison, company CEO Douglas Swenson and Swenson’s two sons — Jeremy and David Swenson, both company secretaries — are accused of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering for allegedly misrepresenting

DBSI’s financial condition and using income from new investors to cover guaranteed payments to previous investors.

Defense lawyers Tuesday told the jury of 10 women and four men that their clients are simply victims of “overzealous and misguided” prosecutors. No crimes were committed, they claimed.

John Kormanik, who represents David Swenson, said the government had to prove that his client and the other defendants “conspired, lied and cheated people,” which he vigorously denied.

Kormanik also argued that David and Jeremy Swenson were prosecuted just to put pressure on their father. Neither was an executive or owner in the company, said Kormanik and Greg Silvey, Jeremy Swenson’s attorney.

Silvey said witnesses who testified in the 10-week trial only mentioned about 50 words regarding his client — and even that might be an exaggeration. No testimony showed that Jeremy Swenson took part in a conspiracy or broke any laws, he said.

“There’s no reason he should be here today,” Silvey told the jury.

In rebuttal, U.S. Attorney Mark Williams said the four defendants worked to keep “material information” about DBSI’s finances from investors. If investors had been told that DBSI was losing money in 2007 and 2008, “they wouldn’t have invested in this company.”

“And that, ladies and gentlemen, is fraud,” Williams said.

Winmill told Williams that he would give him an additional 75 minutes on Wednesday morning to wrap up his rebuttal. The jury then will begin deliberations, Winmill said.

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