Bujak reacts after latest not guilty verdicts, this time in federal court

krodine@idahostatesman.comMay 9, 2014 

John Bujak

John Bujak was red-faced, grinning and obviously relieved when he emerged from a federal courtroom Friday night after hearing the last in a string of five juries reject the charges against him.

“That’s the hardest part of the trial every time, standing there and waiting to hear ... You can never take it for granted,” Bujak said after hearing “not guilty” six times.

The prosecution’s only comment after the verdict came from Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Lindquist, who said, “we always appreciate the endeavors of the jury.”

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated about four hours after four days of testimony on charges that Bujak concealed a high-priced Rolex watch from officials and creditors and repeatedly lied about it in the course of his Chapter 7 bankruptcy case in 2010 and ‘11.

In four previous felony trials, all in state court between November 2012 and March 2013, two juries acquitted Bujak and two were unable to agree on verdicts. Three of those trials related to allegations he took several hundred thousand dollars in public funds while he was Canyon County prosecutor in 2009 and 2010. One trial stemmed from an unrelated theft charge concerning an estate he handled before he became prosecutor.

“I’ve been through a lot of trials, and I can’t help but believe it’s been vetting me for something bigger,” Bujak said after Friday’s verdicts. “I’m thinking the governor’s race is it.”

He will be on November’s general election ballot as a Libertarian candidate for governor.

In closing arguments Friday, prosecutor Lindquist told jurors that they must choose whether to believe Bujak’s version or the testimony of many other witnesses.

“Mr. Bujak stands absolutely alone in his version,” Lindquist said, adding that “it defies common sense, defies reality and because of that he stands guilty.”

But Bujak, serving as his own lawyer, said the story behind the federal charges is a lie perpetrated by his ex-wife and her family after he admitted having an affair, later filed for divorce and refused his ex-wife’s request for a hefty settlement.

He told the jury he didn’t declare the $50,000 watch because, when he and his then-wife were filing for bankruptcy, she told him she had given the bejeweled women’s Rolex to her mother “years ago.” The following May, when the Bujaks’ financial situation worsened, he said they retrieved the watch and sold it for $25,000 to cover bills and his then-wife’s cosmetic dentistry.

Ex-wife Pepper Allen and other witnesses said Pepper never gave away the watch, which was her prized possession, and that it was taken to her parents’ Caldwell home for safekeeping after John Bujak left the couple’s home in January 2011. Allen said she thought the couple was reconciling when they retrieved the Rolex and sold it for $25,000 in May 2011. Lindquist contended that Bujak allowed her to believe the marriage was on the mend because “she was the key to that watch. He needed that watch. ... It was worth almost as much as all of their other personal property combined.”

Bujak told jurors he had no reason to fail to disclose that watch and noted that the bankruptcy trustee’s later discovery of the Rolex forced him to waive his right to be protected from more than $1 million in debt: “Would I have risked that over a $50,000 watch?”

On the other hand, Pepper treasured the watch, he said, suggesting to the jury that she may have hidden it from him and their creditors so she could hold on to it.

And he contended his ex-wife’s contradiction of his version won her a deal that made her part in the alleged bankruptcy fraud a misdemeanor with a $250 fine.

“It’s the bitter ex-wife trifecta,” he said: “a misdemeanor, a small fine, and I get to testify against my husband and burn him down.”

Lindquist called Bujak a “hypocrite” with an implausible story who is “trying to massage and manipulate the facts in such a way as to make it look like his version is the truth.”

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