UPDATE: Jury finds Allen guilty of cell phone payment, not guilty on nine counts | Jackson Free Press

The jury decides whether Downtown Jackson Partners chairman Ben Allen (left) is guilty or innocent of embezzling public funds. He is seen here speaking with one of his attorneys, Merrida Coxwell (right). Photo by Imani Khayyam.

?? The jury in the trial of Downtown Jackson Partners president Ben Allen deliberated for six hours today before finding Ben Allen guilty of one count of 10 counts– for paying $ 1,738.37 in bills for his and his wife’s cell phones using DJP funds. The conviction is passed on March 6 at 11 a.m. and Allen’s lawyers agree to overturn the guilty verdict on appeal.

Count IV of the Hinds County Grand Jury Indictment charged Allen with paying bills for his and his wife’s cell phones using DJP funds and then failing to return the money to the organization. DJP said Allen was allowed to reimburse his cell phone bill, which he used for his work, with money that he maintains as private funds and, therefore, is not there. Hinds County or Government business to be regulated.

Hinds County Assistant District Attorney Randy Harris called the use of Allen’s funds a “scheming” in his closing statement, while attacking the testimony of DJP council attorney Robert Gibbs, the one of the star witnesses of the defense. Gibbs, during his few days at the helm, repeatedly told the jury that the council voluntarily reimbursed Allen for business expenses on his personal credit card and approved the transfer of the truck to his name.

Chief IV specifically stated that Allen did not return the money used on the cell phone bill, although DJP maintains he did. The fact that Allen received the DJP property voluntarily and with the approval of the board of directors was a point of law the defense relied on in its final argument. Yesterday, the prosecution attempted to circumvent that language in the indictment released in early 2016, asking the judge to amend the indictment by removing the clause stating that Allen had not returned the funds before. until the jury heard his instructions.

The court disagreed with the request, denying Hinds County Attorney Robert Shuler Smith and his team the opportunity to remove the sentences from the indictment that alleged Allen had refused to return. DJP’s property that he had misappropriated.

Mississippi code 97-11-25 accuses a person of being guilty of embezzlement by a public official or a trustee when he “will illegally convert for his own use any sum of money or other thing of value which comes into his hands or in his possession under of his office or employment, or shall not, where legally bound to remit such money or deliver such thing, do so immediately in accordance with his legal obligation.

The prosecution asked the judge to remove the phrase “and what sums of money he did not return” from Allen’s indictment last year on each of the counts he is charged with. confronted for allegedly breaking this law. DJP argued through Gibbs and a resolution in favor of Allen that he had not denied DJP anything.

“It’s about properly advising the jury on what the law is, and if we do it the way they ask, (the jury) won’t be properly educated,” Harris said.

“That’s the way you charged him,” Judge Winston Kidd told prosecutors.

“They chose to do this, and that’s how we decided this case,” Allen defense attorney Charles Mullins said.

Mullins took advantage of this omission during his closing statements for the defense. He compared the state’s allegations to an argument between his children during the Super Bowl over who was the better quarterback.

“Prove it. Prove Tom Brady is a better quarterback,” Mullins said.

He said the prosecution never laid the groundwork for the embezzlement charges, pointing out that DJP approved all reimbursements to Allen’s account for expenses he made, including card bills. credit.

“(The board) knowingly paid this money,” Mullins said.

Mullins reiterated the defense’s view that DJP’s money is private and not public, and that the assessment for the BID is not a tax. Assistant District Attorney Sue Perry disagreed in her rebuttal, stating that a tax is a payment you don’t choose to make, much like it happened to homeowners who voted against the IDB but must always pay the assessment.

“What makes a tax a tax is you don’t decide how much tax you’re going to pay,” Perry said.

She compared Allen’s ability to sign checks without any checks as his “honey hole,” among other illustrative comparisons, to an easy source of money with no consequences.

“He does what he wants to do,” Perry said. “He had found his honey hole, his gold mine, his cash cow, his pot at the end of the rainbow.

Email town reporter Tim Summers Jr. at [email protected] Read more about DJP and the Ben Allen trial at jfp.ms/djp.


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