The fate of Ben Allen will finally be placed into the hands of the jury today. The defense rested yesterday and closing arguments will be heard this morning. The courtroom circus continued yesterday as Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith called none other than one Jackson Ward 3 councilman Kenneth Stokes to testify as a rebuttal witness. The D.A. also attempted to change eight of the ten counts in the indictment but Judge Winston Kidd said hell no to that idea. A Hinds County grand jury indicted Mr. Allen for embezzlement in his position as Executive Director of Downtown Jackson Partners.
Meanwhile, Othor Cain provided some of the best coverage of the trial on his Facebook page:
Judge Kidd just denied the motion to amend the indictment. "At this juncture in the trial it wouldn't be wise as I believe when the defendant was served his indictment, his defense prepared accordingly."Meanwhile, Jerry Mitchell reported in the Clarion-Ledger:
Prosecution is asking the judge now to amend the indictment on charges/counts 1-8.Kidd is asking why at this stage? Defense is responding the reason the prosecution wants to make the changes is because they didn't prove their side in either of those counts.
All of Stokes' answers to the defense questions were "NO." The council has NO authority over the money. The council can not tell DJP what to do with money. The council has no control over tax collector...No...No..No... Stokes' testimony has ended. Once again both sides returned to the judges' bench.
Judge Kidd has allowed Stokes to testify but with qualifiers and restrictions saying, "this isn't about politics." Smith is finding it difficult to ask certain questions. Kidd has called both sides to the bench again.
Judge Kidd just ruled that Kenneth Stokes will be allowed to testify (limited) in the embezzlement trial of Ben Allen, who serves as the president of Downtown Jackson Partners.The prosecution wants Stokes to counter the strong defense of DJPs attorney Robert L. Gibbs. The defense called this motion "an attempt to sandbag the defense."
Stokes is calling the money that DJP receives tax money and he says the city has no oversight of this tax money. "I've voted against this in the past..this isn't the right process," he said.
Court is back in session. The prosecution (Robert Smith) is wanting to call Councilman Kenneth Stokes as a witness. The defenseMerrida Coxwell is arguing that allowing Stokes would be a violation of the discovery rules of the court and saying his testimony would be his opinion at best. Smith is arguing he's a sitting Jackson City Councilman and can speak. Kidd is hearing from both sides now and will make a ruling shortly.
After only calling two witnesses to the stand, the defense just rested in the embezzlement trail of Ben Allen, who serves as president of Downtown Jackson Partners.
Kidd: will not allow the prosecution to cross examine Gibbs on cases in which the Supreme Court over turned his decisions while he served as Circuit Judge. The prosecution was attempting to ask the justice to impeach Robert L. Gibbs' testimony.
Robert L. Gibbs remains extremely firm in his position of private vs public funds. He continues to say to Smith, "sir you're wrong." Smith has asked again this morning how much Gibbs earn from DJP. Gibbs responded to courtroom laughter, "how many times can I say the same thing."
Another Day (Day 6) in the embezzlement trial of Downtown Jackson Partners President Ben Allen.
The battle of the Roberts just began...again! Robert Smith's first question was to ask Robert Gibbs if he was a board member of DJP to which Robert L. Gibbs responded,"as I told you last week, I'm not a board member, I'm the attorney for DJP..."
Last week, the defense dealt a blow to the prosecution’s case when Derrick Garner of the state auditor’s office, who investigated Allen and the Partners, testified he found no proof Allen embezzled funds related to the charges listed in the indictment.
Robert L. Gibbs of Jackson, an attorney for the Partners, testified Monday that if he knew Allen had used any of the nonprofit’s money for personal use, he would tell the jury.
“If you can show me where (Allen) spent any of the (Partners’) money for a whirlpool for his son, I’ll tell the jury that’s wrong, but you haven’t shown it to me,” Gibbs told District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith.
An indictment accuses Allen of embezzling money from the Partners, and Smith told jurors that money from the nonprofit went to buy a whirlpool for his son. But Gibbs testified he found the money actually went to parts for a Whirlpool refrigerator owned by the Partners.
Alluding to Garner’s report where he listed embezzlement as the charge he investigated, Smith asked Gibbs if he would accept Garner’s finding.
“I don’t agree to a finding until I see the evidence behind the finding,” replied Gibbs, who receives a $1,000-a-month retainer to represent the nonprofit.
Asked if he would accept that this was a crime, Gibbs replied, “If (Allen) used … Partners’ money to buy his son a whirlpool, that would be wrong, and I would tell the jury it’s wrong, but I’m not going to say it’s a crime.” He said that’s because the Partners’ money is private, not public.
Smith said if someone buys property in the 66-block business improvement district, they must pay the tax. “They can’t opt out,” he said.
Gibbs replied that before people buy property in the district, they would learn they owe the assessment.
He said 91 percent of those in the district had voted to continue the district and that they decided to raise their assessment from 9 to 11 cents a square foot.
“Those people decided to do it themselves,” he said. “The city has no input on that.”
Smith handed Gibbs the minutes of a meeting in which Allen referred to “slow taxes” affecting the Partners’ revenue.
Gibbs told Smith the revenue is not a tax.
“The statute calls it an assessment,” Gibbs said. “Several times in the statute it is referred to as an assessment. You need to stop calling it a tax.”
As for questions surrounding the Partners, Gibbs said the nonprofit has “always had clean audits.” Article
However, Mr. Mitchell did not report the D.A.'s attempts to change the indictment. Mr. Smith apparently wanted to strike part of the statute from eight counts of the indictment. Meanwhile, WLBT provided this video coverage: