Monday, November 7, 2016

Former DJP employee refuses to testify, DJP asks for bench warrant

Update: The docket states that DJP subpoenaed records from a bank and two casinos.  DJP also filed a notice of serving interrogatories on Ms. Brune and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith.  

Downtown Jackson Partners asked a Madison County Court Judge to hold former employee Linda Brune in contempt of court for refusing to participate in a deposition.  DJP accused her of embezzling over $40,000 in a lawsuit filed nearly two years ago.  Judge Will Longwitz held a hearing to determine whether he should compel her deposition on October 25 but Ms. Brune did not appear at the hearing.  She instead attended the motion hearings that were held in State v. Robert Shuler Smith even though she was not subpoenaed to be there.   DJP Executive Director Ben Allen is under indictment for allegedly embezzling and misusing DJP funds. DJP asked Judge Longwitz to issue a bench warrant and detain Ms. Brune until she was deposed. 

Judge Will Longwitz ruled that Ms. Brune should provide a deposition to DJP at a witness room in the Madison County Courthouse on November 1 at 2:00 PM.    The defendant did not appear for the deposition.  DJP submitted the motion for contempt the next day.  The contempt motion states:

The Plaintiffs move the Court to hold the Defendant in contempt. The Plaintiffs further move the Court to issue a bench warrant causing the Defendant to appear at a deposition at the Courthouse at time convenient to Plaintiffs’ counsel and that she not be released from the custody of the Sheriff until the deposition is concluded to the satisfaction of the Plaintiffs
Attorney Sam Begley represents DJP.  Ms. Brune has fought tooth and nail the efforts made to depose her.  She told the court administrator in a September 21 email (page 7 in documents posted below):

 I will not be available for depositions or any related matter to this case until after the criminal trial of Downtown Jackson Partners' president. I have no attorney at this time but he will be available, hopefully in December. I will be available any time after the aforementioned trial is over.
 She claimed she could not testify because she was a witness in the Ben Allen criminal case.  Her October 12 answer states (page 5):

Having testified before the Hinds County Grand Jury regarding the case against Benjamin Wade Allen, President of Downtown Jackson Partners (hereafter DJP), I am under oath to reveal/discuss nothing regarding DJP until after that trial, which is scheduled for November 28, 2016, in the Hinds County Circuit Court. Mr. Allen was indicted on ten counts of embezzlement and misuse of funds belonging to DJP. Preparation for that trial has been time consuming and stressful for me. I, respectfully, request that Judge Longwitz delay ALL proceedings regarding this issue until after that trial.

However, Ms. Brune almost dares the court to throw her in jail:

Realizing that I might be held in contempt of court by refusing to cooperate in this hearing, I am ready to accept the consequences. If I go to jail for that refusal, I will have housing, food, medical treatment and other necessities, some of which I do not have at this lime. These people can do nothing more to me. I have lost everything, including my job, all assets, medical and life insurance. My credit is in the toilet and I have lost respect from some in the community. I simply have nothing else to lose.

While DJP made every attempt to have me indicted for embezzlement after I was fired from my employment with same, that case was no billed by the Hinds County Grand Jury.* According to the Detective assigned to that case, DJP urged them to arrest me on Christmas Day in 2014. I provide that information to show the malicious intent and retaliation by DJP. Since that case was no billed in Hinds County, DJP is taking a second bite of that apple in Madison County.

Under these circumstances, I decline to cooperate with Mr. Begley's request for information regarding this case or any case regarding DJP until after the trial of DJP President. I am prepared to take any consequence involved but will not subject myself to contempt in Hinds County to satisfy a possible order in Madison County.
The gauntlet is thrown.

*That section was highlighted so no one could claim JJ was trying to hide the information.  

Synopsis of lawsuit

Linda Brune provided several boxes of Downtown Jackson Partners documents to the State Auditor and the Clarion-Ledger in 2014 while she was employed as a secretary by DJP.  Reporter Jerry Mitchell had a field day and garnered several front page headlines for his scoop.  However,  the media did not report DJP sued its former employee for embezzlement.

Downtown Jackson Partners sued Linda Brune on December 10, 2014 in Madison County Court for allegedly embezzling $40,439.  The lawsuit also states she was "terminated on July 25, 2014 for sharing confidential corporate information with a reporter from the Clarion-Ledger."   Ms. Brune is a resident of Madison County.

The complaint states that Ms. Brune worked as DJP's administrative assistant for several years prior to her termination.  She was allowed to "fill out" checks but did not have signature authority.  DJP alleges that she "embezzled 38 check instruments representing a total sum of $40,439" by making checks payable to herself and "forging Mr. Allen's signature on each of the checks." She would then allegedly alter the payee's name on the bank statements by "whiting out" (no racism intended)  her name and replacing it with the name of a vendor. She would then allegedly copy the altered statement so evidence of the whiteout would not appear.  The complaint charges her with several counts of fraud, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, and unjust enrichment.  DJP asked for damages and attorney's fees.  Attorney Sam Begley represents DJP.

Ms. Brune replied with the standard denials one usually sees in an answer and accused DJP of forum shopping. She then threw a few charges of her own at DJP: 

"Defendant was given no reason for termination after 17 years of employment with him at the City Council and at Downtown Jackson Partners.  Moreover, nothing should be confidential at DJP as they are funded by tax dollars and open to examination of all documents.  Mr. Allen's misuse i.e. giving money to those in his favor, laundering money for various organizations, giving checks to his son's friends for non-existent events to be held to promote Jackson totaling $10,000 plus dollars. 

She argues that any funds withdrawn from DJP accounts were delivered directly to Mr. Allen.  She claims she was "loyal to a fault" and doesn't have the money to "reimburse his slush fund."  Nothing else was filed in the case after Ms. Brune submitted her answer.  The case is assigned to Judge Will Longwitz.  Ms. Brune represents herself.

DJP has since sought to depose Ms. Brune.  However,  Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith attempted to prevent her deposition in a letter sent to DJP last May.  Mr. Smith stated she could not testify since she is a victim in the case although the indictments state DJP is the victim of the misuse of funds.  The letter stated (Page 9):

The State of Mississippi represents Ms. Linda Brune as a victim In the criminal case of State of Mississippi versus Benjamin Wade Allen. She will not be available for depositions or any other matter related to the civil dispute in the above-referenced until she has retained counsel to respond to numerous requests by DJP. Further, she has advised that she will request the Court to hold any civil matter in abeyance until the disposition of the criminal matter. Further, she has received correspondence requesting that she waive her right to a trial by jury. She vehemently opposes to waiving her rightto a trial by jury, or any other rights.

If you have anything further regarding this matter, please direct your correspondence to our office. Her new counsel with be in touch with you in the very near future. Thank you. Earlier post.
Downtown Jackson Partners and the court apparently ignored the District Attorney.


Anonymous said...

Sometime we see an organization where all involved are guilty that it is very hard for people to keep up with all of the criminal activities.

Anonymous said...

Oh, oh, oh, she is over the edge. I do not wish to see her jailed - instead she needs mental assistance. She probably believes all that she has fabricated, and I pray she gets the help she needs. Shame on Jerry Mitchell, desperately in search of more front page drama.

Anonymous said...

What's extraordinary is the correspondence from the unhinged Shuler Smith.

The State of Mississippi represents Ms. Linda Brune as a victim In the criminal case of State of Mississippi versus Benjamin Wade Allen.

What does that even mean? She's a former employee of DJP. Having that "former" status makes her no different than any other citizen of Mississippi. That being the case, she is not "represented as a victim" anymore than Kingfish or any commenter in this thread.

Shuler wants desperately to keep this woman from being deposed before Allen's trial, which, given the efficiency of the Hinds County Court system, could be called around 2024.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure telling a court to fuck off until you "decide" to cooperate is not a good idea....

Watching From A Distance.. said...

The letter she wrote the court makes perfect sense to me. Hell, she even outlined the fact that she is under court order not to discuss the case. I don't know her, never have seen her and know nothing about her. Her letter sounds reasonable to me.

She's basically thrown herself at the mercy of the court and the jail cook. What else has she got to lose?I believe she's a scapegoat for Allen who has always been a fucking loser.

Anonymous said...

11:54 I agree, but based on comments on the other WeI'll thread it seems there are many who claim to be experienced attorneys who don't agree with us.

As I said the last time this mess came up, surely the bank kept the original checks or copies thereof. If the originals listed her name in the "Pay to the order of..." line, and her photocopies in the DJP ledger list someone different, then it looks like Lucy has a whole lot of "'splainin' " to do :-

With apologies to "Lucy's" son, who I understand now lives in Jackson.

Anonymous said...

12:12, you should immediately write to the mail order company that sent you your law degree if you really believe her letter to the court makes sense.

While you are at it you could ask for a refund of RSS's based on his representation of this woman as a victim. That letter has so many things in it that are wrong to try to address them.

Anonymous said...

This is a no brainier. She tells the court system to go screw themselves. And a sitting judge. Talk about a judicial middle finger on steroids. Geez.

Anonymous said...

How can a DA represent a citizen of the State against another citizen of the State?

Anonymous said...

Good question 2:27. Why, that would be like a DA representing someone sitting in the county jail that he was supposed to be prosecuting.

Oh, wait.........

Anonymous said...

So, was there an Order entered compelling this woman's deposition? Had her depo been noticed/was she subpoenaed and she didn't show? If not, she didn't do anything wrong. If an Order was entered and she didn't show when the Order told her to, she's screwed. She can't refuse to show up. She can show up and plead the 5th to every question, but she can't just tell everyone to piss off.

Showing up for a motion hearing is not mandatory, but you generally lose them if you're not there to argue your side (unless you are a PI attorney in Judge Green's court).

Kingfish said...

Good questions. She was subpoenaed. All the procedures were followed.

Anonymous said...

She could just say "I don't remember". It works great for some people.

Anonymous said...

Here again, KF has his panties in a wad (yes I meant panties)and is spouting information that does not exist. I believe the "order" was prepared by the DJP attorney for that lady to appear but the judge did not sign it. NO subpoena was issued. That attorney is known for his bullying tactics. He has had a complaint filed against him with the Bar Association for harassment, unprofessional conduct and illegal activities. Furthermore, she has much respect for the Judge as she knew him waaaaaay before this debacle arose. As for 12:14, "Lucy" doesn't have a son. He died tragically some few years ago and it is so crass and unthinkable that you would even mention such.

Anonymous said...

7:00 Lucy's "television son" Little Ricky is probably who 12:14 is making reference.

Anonymous said...

Does 11:35, 12:12 and 7:00... Same person...not realize that constantly talking to yourself on a conversation blog is called trolling. We all know who the troll is.

Watching From A Distance said...

7:49....I'm 12:12 and have posted nothing else here prior to that and the one you are now reading. I gave an opinion at 12:12 and was roundly chastised for giving it. I'm not an attorney and don't claim to be one. It's no doubt you know who the troll is. It's you.

Anonymous said...

She must appear at the deposition, be sworn or affirmed, and identify herself. Then she can plead the Fifth Amendment and the deposition is over. Then the Plaintiff has as evidence the inference that she would have admitted embezzlement if she testified truthfully; but that inference would not be admissible against her in a criminal proceeding.

Its really pretty simple. She needs an attorney, er, a private practice attorney.

Anonymous said...

I don't like trial by media in any case.
This woman is innocent until proven guilty.
I don't like that Madison County is trying a case that occurred in Hinds County.
That the woman has " nothing left to lose" rings true to me but until all the facts are in evidence and a verdict comes down, I'm not going to hang her or Ben Allen.
What I do see is that few lawyers these days remember that ultimately their profession should be about justice and not only about winning and losing.
Some of you have turned our legal system into a game. You file motions and depose to delay justice and hopes of running up costs to line your own pockets and in hopes that the financial costs will drive a plantiff or defendant into submission.
This has contributed to the poor regard the public has for the profession and the legal system in this Nation. If we become a failed state, it will be, in no small way because of lost of faith in the law.

Anonymous said...

7:30, very true. Lawyers need to be looked at the same as used car salesmen. Used car salesmen are really a few steps above lawyers but comparing a lawyer to a slug would be demeaning the slug.

Kingfish said...

JJ has been very fair in covering this lawsuit and it deserves to be covered. The relevant points made by both sides has been posted.

Kingfish said...

and actually I was wrong in my comment as I went off the top of my head without checking the docket first. The notice was indeed submitted in a proposed order to the judge and not the typical use of a subpoena.

However, since we are being nit-picky and looking at dockets, it is interesting that they are subpoenaing casino records.

Anonymous said...

RE: subpoena casino records.

No shit. Dots, meet connect.

Anonymous said...

Does an interogatory mean they DJP want to depose RSS??

Anonymous said...

Those people are trying desperately to trash that woman before Ben Allen's trial. Ergo, no credible witness. They have no scruples and will do ANYthing to get that thug off the hook.

Anonymous said...

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