Note: This case has never been reported by Jerry Mitchell.
An investigative file submitted as an exhibit in the Downtown Jackson Partners lawsuit provides more information on the organization's efforts to prosecute its former secretary. DJP sued Linda Brune for damages caused by her alleged embezzlement of over $43,000. However, Ms. Bruine is a witness in the trial of her former boss, Ben Allen, that is currently taking place in Hinds County Circuit Court. Mr. Allen was indicted on ten counts of embezzlement from DJP.
Ms. Brune did not appear in Madison County Court and a default judgment was issued against her. Ms. Brune filed a motion to set aside the default judgement and included an exhibit that was a copy of the investigative file of her case. DJP accused her of embezzling and stealing records. DJP tried to file charges with JPD. However, the grand jury refused to indict her and a detective said the case was flawed. The District Attorney also said that the State Auditor and Attorney General gave her whistleblower protection and DJP was trying to retaliate against her by filing criminal charges.
The exhibit shines a light on what was going on behind the scenes as the two sides tried to prosecute each other. Some highlights from the exhibit are:
* The State Auditor's Chief Investigator, David Huggins, sent a letter to Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith on May 13, 2015 stating that Ms. Brune received whistleblower protection on March 20, 2014. Ironically, Mr. Smith obtained an indictment against Mr. Huggins last year for obstruction of justice in this case. (p.1)
*The Hinds County grand jury refused to indict Ms. Brune for embezzlement. The D.A. wrote that the case was retaliation for whistleblowing. (p.2)
*Ben Allen gave a statement to JPD (p.7):
*However, the police report states Trustmark Bank did not corroborate all of the accusations:
The complaint which was filed at Trustmark National Bank on September 2, 2014 , alleged that on three separate dates employee Linda Brune forged Mr. Allen's signature on three separate checks belonging to the Downtown Jackson Partners. According to the bank affidavit, allegedly on the date of 04/21/2014, Linda Brune endorse check number 0006 for the sum of $1,844.00 to herself and forged Ben Allen's name at the bottom of this check. On 05/19 /20 I 4, Linda Brune allegedly endorsed check number 0005 for the sum of $1,914.00 to herself and forged Ben Allen's name at the bottom of this check. On 06/04/20 14, Linda Brune allegedly endorsed check number 0006 to herself for the sum of $800.00 and forged Ben Allen's name at the bottom of this check. However, Eddie Toombs explained his investigation did not substantiate this complaint. Furthermore, Mr. Toombs explained that the Downtown Jackson Partners failed to report this alleged crime within the allowed sixty day period as it is outline in Trustmark affidavit policy therefore, he was not going to authorized any repayment of funds which the Downtown Jackson Partners alleged they lost. (p.26)
*Another police report (p.27) provides more statements from Mr. Allen on October 31, 2014:
Mr. Allen stated the embezzlement was discovered after being contacted on July 18, 2014, by a Jackson Clarion Ledger news reporter name Jerry Mitchell. Mr. Allen said on July 21, 2014, he scheduled a formal interview with Jerry Mitchell in reference to speaking with him about up coming events scheduled for the Downtown area. How ever, Mr. Allen said at the start of this interview, he quickly realized by the type of questions Jen-y Mitchell was eluding to, someone from within the Downtown Jackson Partners organization had leak sensitive information to the media about the operation business of the Downtown Jackson Partners. Mr. Allen said Jerry Mitchell questioned him about the title of a vehicle and events associated with the Downtown Jackson Partners which expanded the years of 2014 through 2009. Mr. Allen said someone within his organization, was giving the media information about their business secrets and payroll information. Mr. Allen said on July 23, 2014, he had a meeting with his staff to inform them about the leaking of information coming out of his organization. Mr. Allen said on July 25, 2014, John Gomez reviewed their employees company email's from their company computer where he discovered that Ben's Allen Executive Assistant Linda Brune was the person leaking information to the media . Ben Allen said after speaking with the board President of the Downtown Partners David Watkins , they immediately that day, terminated Linda Brune employment with the Downtown Jackson Partners.
Mr. Allen said after the termination of Linda Brune several acts which she committed, proceeded to reveal itself. Mr. Allen explained the first thing they discovered was that Linda Brune removed confidential files for their office. Mr. Allen said on August 28, 2014, his assistant John Gomez, asked him did he write a check to Linda Brune for $800.00 dollars. Mr. Allen said John Gomez only inquired about the check after being contacted by someone from the forgery division at Trustmark National Bank. Mr. Allen said he didn't write Linda Brune a check for $800.00. Mr. Allen said the check was written on June 15 or 16 2014, and his name was forged on the check as the endorser to Linda Brune. Mr. Allen said this lead to an detail audit of their business accounts at Trustmark National Bank in which they discovered as far back as 2009, Linda Brune had been embezzling funds from a bank account belonging to the Downtown Jackson Partners . Mr. Allen said they learned that Linda Brune was writing checks and fabricating his signature on them. Mr. Allen said some of the checks were written out to Linda Brune which she cashed at Trustmark Bank and some were deposit into her personal bank account at State Bank & Trust.*A December 22, 2014 police report states attorney Dennis Sweet represented Ms. Brune. Mr. Sweet told JPD he would not allow his client to give any statements concerning DJP since it might violate the terms of her whistleblower protection. (p.30)
*JPD states in a report that the evidence was inconclusive. The report also states Ms. Brune was assisted by attorney John Reeves.
Even after examining the entire bank records of the Downtown Jackson Partners from 2009 through 2014, this detective could not definitely substantiate Mr. Allen's criminal complaint because of inclusive evidence. Furthermore, during the scope of this investigation , it was revealed to this detective, that as far back as March 20, 2014, five months prior to Ben Allen filing a criminal complaint on behalf of the Downtown Jackson Partners against Linda Brune, I discovered that she had (Whistleblower Status) against any retaliation from the Downtown Jackson Partners. On 11 /26/20 I 4, a local Jackson attorney name John Arthur Reeves verbally confirmed that he was the attorney who help negotiate a deal between the State of Mississippi Attorney General Office and his previous client Linda Brune in receiving Whistlcblower status in a cooperation with a investigation surrounding the Jackson Downtown Partners. On 12/22/20.14, this_ detective made contact with Attorney Dennis C. Sweet who presented me a copy of a letter from the Office of the State Auditor/ Stacey E. Pickering which clearly states that Linda Brune has had Whistlcblower Status since March 20, 2014 furthermore, on 12 / 23 /1 4, this fact was confirmed through speaking with a representative from the State Auditor's law enforcement division. On 12/24/14, this detective spoke with Mrs. Linda Brune , who said on the advice of her attorney Dennis C. Sweet, she cannot give a statement in reference to the criminal complaint tiled against her because it would disrupt her status as a Whistleblower by the
Office of the State Attorney General. Finally, after representatives from Trustmark National Bank evaluated this complaint, they decided not to pursue any criminal charges against Linda Brune.
*A list of checks are presented on pages 34-45.
*A security guard also stated that she saw Ms. Brune remove several boxes of documents on July 4, 2014. (p.60)