Friday, January 27, 2017

Arrest warrant & default judgment revoked for Brune

 Madison County Court Judge Stacy O'Neal cancelled an arrest warrant for former Downtown Jackson Partners secretary Linda Brune. Judge O'Neal also set aside the default judgment that her predecessor awarded against Ms. Brune.  Downtown Jackson Partner sued Ms. Brune in Madison County Court to recover over $40,000 she allegedly embezzled. 

DJP fired MS. Brune for providing records to the Clarion-Ledger after Jerry Mitchell published a story on DJP spending. DJP sued Ms. Brune for embezzlement and sought her deposition.  DJP asked Judge Will Longwitz 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 in October 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 himself is under indictment for allegedly embezzling and misusing DJP funds.  His trial starts Monday.  Attorney Sam Begley represents DJP.  Ms. Brune is representing herself

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 but she did not appear. DJP submitted the motion for contempt the next day. She sent an email to Judge Longwitz's court administrator on September 21 that stated:

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.

Ms. Brune did not appear for any of the other proceedings that took place in this lawsuit although she did participate in a telephone conference on December 1.  DJP asked the court to enter a default judgment against Ms. Brune. The court approved the motion and entered a default judgment against the defendant.

 Things were going DJP's way until a little thing called an election took place in Madison County last November.  Stacy O'Neal defeated Judge Longwitz and assumed his seat on the bench. Meanwhile, Ms. Brune filed a motion to set aside the default judgment and also contested the motion for contempt.  She claimed she did not receive proper notice.*   The plaintiff's contested her motion and stated in its reply:

The next day, (after failing to appear for deposition) on November 2, 2016, the Plaintiffs filed their motion to have the Defendant held in contempt of court. (Doc. #24). The Court conducted a telephonic hearing on the motion on the morning of Friday, November 4, 2016, in which the Defendant freely participated and was quite talkative. At that time, she told the Court that she would not answer any discovery or submit to a deposition until after the conclusion of a criminal trial scheduled to commence in Hinds County more than three weeks later, on November 28, 2016. On Wednesday, November 9, 2016, the Court entered its contempt order which ordered the Defendant’s arrest and to be held in custody until she had completed the Plaintiffs’ deposition of her. (p.16 posted below)
 Judge O'Neal agreed with the defense and set aside the default judgment because the defendant did not receive a proper notice for a December hearing.  The order stated  Judge Longwitz held a telephonic hearing but issued no notice for it nor was a court reporter present.

However, DJP filed another motion for a default judgment and "properly noticed" Ms. Brune for a hearing that took place on January 4.  Ms. Brune did not attend the second hearing because of "medical reasons".  Judge O'Neal held the hearing anyway since Ms. Brune did not provide any documentation of her medical excuse.  The court said it heard the plaintiff's argument and took the "matter under advisement."

Judge O'Neal did acknowledge that Mr. Brune was very "uncooperative" in this case but still refused to grand a default judgment or sanction her because she did not appear at a deposition that was not properly ordered or noticed.  Thus Judge O'Neal set aside the arrest warrant for Ms. Brune.  However, she said DJP can ask to reinstate the warrant if she refused to participate in a deposition after receiving a thirty-day notice.

The Court ordered Ms. Brune to appear at a show cause hearing on February 8 to explain why she did not participate in a pretrial order as required.  Ms. Brune will also have to participate in a deposition that will take place in a witness room at the conclusion of the show cause hearing.  Judge O'Neal also granted Ms. Brune's request to stay her testimony until she concludes her testimony in the prosecution of Ben Allen.

Update: Judge O'Neal denied an emergency motion for a protective order yesterday. DJP sought to impose a "gag" order on Ms. Brune after she commented about this decision on the JFP website.

Kingfish note: It seems that the new judge had some reservations about how some actions were noticed and decided to take a step back.  She noted that the defendant has been uncooperative and is going to allow the parties to have a rematch of sorts.

*Judge O'Neal said this happened several times. She stated:

A review of the docket report in this matter reveals that the Plaintiffs have never filed a Notice
of Deposition under Rule 30 in an attempt to take the oral deposition of the Defendant. What may or
may not have happened over phone calls, messages or email is not sufficient for this Court to
grant such a severe sanction as default judgment. The docket reveals that the Plaintiffs filed a
Motion to Compel written discovery,which was properly noticed and heard by Judge Longwitz on October 25th. The Defendant failed to appear for this hearing. At said hearing, Judge Longwitz ruled from the bench granting the Plaintiffs motion to compel but no written order was ever entered. Next, it appears that the Plaintiffs secured a witness room at the courthouse for a deposition of the Defendant on November 1st and sent a proposed order to Judge Longwitz that would have ordered the Defendant to appear and be deposed. Said proposed Order was never executed. Any attempt to sanction the Defendant for her specific failure to attend a deposition on November 1st is without merit since there was no Order for her to appear on that day and time nor was there a Notice of Deposition served upon her for that day and time. Finally, on November 9, 2016, Judge Longwitz executed an order that a warrant should be issued for the Defendant to be arrested for the purpose of deposing her on November 10th or other convenient time. To date, the Defendant has not been arrested.

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 also subpoenaed records from two Vicksburg casinos and State Bank & Trust.

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:

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.

The complete court file is posted below.


Anonymous said...

I wish the honorable Judge Longwitz was not gone. He would have handled this mess correctly.

Anonymous said...

Appears she is dotting the is and crossing the ts. Allen is the big fish here.

Anonymous said...

Longwitz apparently has little understanding of the Rules of Civil Procedure and the concept of due process. The voters obviously made a wise decision.

Anonymous said...

Her reversing orders is reversible in and of itself

Anonymous said...

How can 2 attorneys have such differing opinions on what from a layman's view is a pretty clear question? Could this be an ethics question on the bar exam?

Anonymous said...

This is not a good start on the bench for O'Neal who claimed her 'experience' was a good reason to elect her - if this order should be appealed would give her a reversal within her first trimester in office. But it is a good message to all civil defendants (and one could assume criminal as well) that they don't have to show up when summoned to court. No appearance / no foul.

While a temporary victory for RSS's shill, it won't last long.

Anonymous said...

Longwitz apparently has little understanding of Madison County voters.

Bake a cake with a fangernail file said...

Mrs b is guilty either way. She can go to jail now ...or later

Anonymous said...

Judges have a lot of discretion in matters like this, and different judges use that discretion differently.

O'Neal is probably correct to err on the side of affording due process; it makes whatever ultimately happens less subject to an appeal and a do-over. Measure twice, cut once.

Anonymous said...

So, 3:44, by what manner of wisdom do you totally ignore the matter of 'notice'? Or are you simply letting your emotions guide you keyboarding?

Anonymous said...

4:16 by what manner of study of facts do you comment on the matter of notice? Or are you simply letting your guesses guide your keyboarding?

From what I read, Judge O'Neal is opining on the matter, but I haven't read anything here the proves or disproves her ruling. Do you happen to have real info, or just like everybody else here expressing your non-informed opinion?

Anonymous said...

DJP sued Ms. Brune after she exposed them. Judge O'Neal likely questions the integrity of the entire matter. DJP consists of crooks who are well connected and thought they could continue robbing the the poor, unsuspecting; powerless citizens of Jackson. I hope RSS prevails in exposing, disarming and destroying each and every crook!

Anonymous said...

She got the "Alternative Facts"

Anonymous said...

5:15; I'm 4:16. It appears that YOU are the one guessing, or rather talking out your ass. I've opined based on the facts as I read them in the initial post of the thread and the attachments thereto.

It's interesting that you claim all other posters are uninformed when you have come forward with nothing other than a half-baked opinion.

Yours wasn't even a 'nice try'.

Anonymous said...

5:41, good try, but I'll bet you a dollar to a doughnut hole you can't defend your statement that "DJP consists of crooks ...... robbing the poor unsuspecting powerless citizens of Jackson".

Just where do you think DJP gets its money?

If you can find me one --- just one --- poor, or unsuspecting, or powerless citizen of Jackson that DJP has taken (and I'm not going to hold you to your very 'robbing') money from, I'll pay up.

Otherwise, I'm will call you out as a shill for Brune. Probably either RSS, or Brune's idiotic cohart Ms. Reeves. Not many other people, including the normal commentators on JJ, are that stupid.

Anonymous said...

Did you people not read the explanation and post? There were several Oders tha did Not exist. The facts are what the newly elected Judge ruled upon. There are no alternative facts. The first Judge failed to follow the law.

Anonymous said...

Hey everyone. 95.07 % of the property owners in the DJP BID just voted to pay their assessment for another 10 years. Like last week. And with a 10% increase in their assessment. Last time you heard of a group of businesses voting for an increase in what they pay for in taxes or assessments? Over 95% did.

Anonymous said...

6:46. Sounds like they are really happy with the board and Allen's leadership. I am just glad to see the Ambassadors everywhere I go downtown, where I work.

Anonymous said...

And, the new judge was a regular advertiser on JJ during her campaign receiving a prominent location on the blog.

Kingfish said...

Both candidates did

Anonymous said...

And how many voted? 14 maybe?

Anonymous said...

Bake a Cake you are vadly mistaken. This week is an indication of what you gonna' see for now on. Allen is guilty as hell and the lady is WALKING whether or not she did anythig. My guess would be she did NOT do anything. He got caught and, well, is caught. She did nothing and their "scary story" doesns't change that! He's going down.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone should be upset with Longwitz for failing to enter the notices .That was his job.
And, I think everyone should be comfortable with a delay in the trial of a whistleblower until the criminal case is resolved.
As a society, we do not want to make whistleblowing harder by sending the message " the person(s) you are blowing the whistle on can make your life miserable and expensive the minute you turn over evidence".
None of us know who is telling the truth as the facts of the case and testimony under oath have not been given in court. If you have decided who is in the right and certain the person you are defending is incapable of making a bad mistake, you have done so based on who you know or your political loyalties. Humans can make bad mistakes , sometimes just out of carelessness or sometimes out of fear of being fired.
I don't know what happened here. I do, however, believe in " innocent until proven guilty" and don't think trial by public opinion on social media is anything other than tainting a jury or gaming a political agenda. And, I don't believe lawyers defending their clients in public forums can be believed and as a juror , I didn't believe what lawyers said in open court unless the evidence backs them up. But, then I grew up thinking these beliefs I hold were vital to borrow from '50's television , " Truth , Justice and the American Way".

Anonymous said...

Will Longwitz has months and months of legal experience, and has been through the crucible of having an extremely wealthy father-in-law, who arranged his appointment to the bench. Asking him to have his court administrator to walk to the clerk's office & file something as complicated as a "notice of hearing" is a bit unreasonable.

One wonders if information such as this would've been posted had he still been advertising on this site.

Anonymous said...

8:26 AM Do you have a problem with a man who started from nothing and has made something of himself? Why make a derogatory statement about Longwitz's father-in-law when you probably don't know him well. What is significant about a family member helping someone run for office. I have known David well for over 40 years and have never known him to interfere with politics.

Get over your jealousy about a very successful man and stick with the facts of the instant case. I have not been involved with this so I will not comment on it. The times that I have been in front of Judge Longwitz I have found him to be professional.

Anonymous said...

Why not wait until Ben Allen has his day in court. According to what is shown there it may save the people the cost of another trial.

Kingfish said...

Leave the families out of it.

Anonymous said...

Will is a nice guy...he just got too greedy.

Hope he gets his chin up and comes back to do something.

Kingfish said...

Wow. I don't approve a comment and you start name-calling? This post is about a court case. It's not about the personal lives of the judges. A nice long although well written post trashing a judge and providing his political history has nothing to do with this thread and is really just a personal attack on the judge, and again, has nothing to do with the subject of this post.

Anonymous said...

Your synopsis is somewhat flawed, to say the least. She did not take files from their office. She copied files. No originals were removed from their office and it is reflected in Attorney Robert Gibbs testimony at Ben Allen's Dismissal hearing before Judge Winston Kidd. Attorney Gibbs stated that they "went back and found the missing receipts for charges on their credit card statement." If they were stolen, how did they find them? You also failed to mention that DJP tried to have JPD arrest her (6 months) after her evidence.........then went to Grand billed....then went to AG........wouldn't touch...........then went to Michael Guess...he declined. In desperation, went to County Court in Madison County (although this occurred in Hinds Co.) where you can sue anything and anybody. Get your facts straight. Purely harassment and retaliation. Shame on those people.

Anonymous said...

If the trial supposed to start today is not delayed maybe we can get answers to a lot of questions. Who wants to bet it will not be delayed?

Anonymous said...

Love all of these assumptions. Ms Brune is a thief. She has always been a gossiping trouble-maker. I used to feel sorry for her and blamed her actions on mental illness. I think she actually started to believe her own lies. She will stop at nothing for revenge on those she feels have done her wrong.

Anonymous said...

How good of you to hire the handicapped, Ben.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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