Absent from the pages of the Clarion-Ledger is any mention of the embezzlement lawsuit Downtown Jackson Partners filed against its former secretary. Linda Brune was the whistleblower who gave star reporter Jerry Mitchell the scoop in his investigative story on the spending of Downtown Jackson Partners President Ben Allen. Mr. Allen was convicted on one count of embezzlement earlier this week. However, DJP sued the whistleblower for allegedly embezzling over $43,000 from the non-profit organization. The case has been fought up in Madison County Court yet Mr. Mitchell somehow has deemed that it should not be mentioned in any of his reporting on Downtown Jackson Partners and the trials of Benjamin Wade Allen.
DJP tried to press charges against Ms. Brune. However, a JPD detective recommended that she not be charged with embezzlement and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith made the same recommendation to a Hinds County grand jury . Earlier post and copy of investigative file. DJP sued her in Madison County since she is a resident of Ridgeland in 2014. The case languished for some time but DJP finally took action on the case last year and attempted to depose her as well as obtain a judgement against her. Ms. Brune did not appear for any proceedings and informed the court she would not do so until after Mr. Allen's trial because she said she would be testifying in his trial. Ms. Brune did not testify at Mr. Allen's trial. Mr. Smith even stated that she could not be deposed since she was a prosecution witness in a letter sent to DJP's attorney, Sam Belgey, last June. Earlier post with copy of letter.
Judge Will Longwitz issued a default judgment against the defendant and ordered her arrest. However, he lost his seat in November to attorney Staci O'Neal and she assumed the control of the case in January. She revoked the warrant and default judgment but ordered Ms. Brune to appear at a "show cause hearing" that was held yesterday in her courtroom.
Attorney Sam Begley represented Downtown Jackson Partners yesterday while Ms. Brune represented herself. Charlotte Reeves accompanied Ms. Brune to the hearing and sat next to her at the table normally reserved for attorneys. Judge O'Neal made every effort to ensure that Ms. Brune understood the proceedings and that her rights were protected. The judge ruled that Ms. Brune would participate in a deposition that would be held in the library after the hearing. Judge O'Neal warned Mr. Begley against taking "advantage of a pro-se defendant." Judge O'Neal said she wanted to set a trial date after discovery took place. The court allowed Ms. Reeves to accompany Ms. Brune at the deposition but barred her actual participation.
Ms. Brune at times claimed her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination but then would waive those rights only to claim them again. She complained about the presence of JJ's video camera in the courtroom but the court informed her that a proper camera coverage request was filed and honored under the law (19:24). Ms. Brune filed a motion to dismiss but the court ruled that it would not be heard yesterday since the plaintiffs had not yet a chance to file a response. Judge O'Neal said she would set a trial date after she heard the motion to dismiss on March 8 at 1:00 PM. No media was present at the hearing nor has this case been mentioned in the media.
Kingfish note: One must ask why the media is not covering this lawsuit. One can think Mr. Allen is indeed guilty of the ten counts mentioned in his indictment but the story of DJP suing a former secretary for embezzling a large sum of money is still worthy of coverage. The two stories are not mutually exclusive. Ms. Brune may be innocent or she may be guilty. That question should be resolved by the judicial process. However, it is rather interesting to watch the media pursue one story while ignoring the other. One can only ask why this is so. Original post with copy of lawsuit.