The Defense in FBI’S “Ghost Lobby” Bribery Trial Wins

Attorney Patricia Gitre successfully represented former Arizona Corporation Committee member, Gary Pierce, who was charged, along with his wife and two others, with conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud in one of the State’s highly publicized political trials of 2018.  After a hasty three month investigation (during which the prosecution interviewed only three witnesses), the government indicted our clients, based mainly on the testimony of a co-defendant’s ex-wife, Kelly Norton.  Kelly Norton admitted to negotiating her immunity deal that included avoiding taking a lie detector test relating to her testimony.

Right before the trial began, our clients were offered a deal by the prosecution which included no jail or prison time.  However, our clients stood firm to prove their innocence, no matter the personal and financial sacrifice.  

At trial, the prosecution told the jury they would present solid evidence of 8 crimes against each of the four defendants utilizing the testimony of the ex-wife of a co-defendant, to build their case.  The government initially claimed Sherry Pierce took a job paying her $31,000 for a years work, which benefited Gary Pierce because the checks were deposited into Sherry and Gary’s joint marital account.  The prosecution initially claimed Sherry’s job, was a “no show” job, inferring Sherry did not work for the $31,000 she was paid.  However, after five weeks of trial we established our client’s wife, Sherry Pierce, had been employed by the government’s star witness to perform various jobs and in return was legally paid for her work;  Sherry, our client’s wife, even declared this income on her taxes.  This undermined the government’s initial “no show” claim, the core of their case.   The prosecution then changed their position and continued to prosecute the defendants under a new theory; that Sherry Pierce, was simply overpaid in their opinion, therefore all four defendants should lose decades of their freedom.  The government also sought convictions based upon a sale of land that never happened.

At trial the government’s star witness, Kelly Norton, admitted she had received immunity from the prosecution, and negotiated her immunity deal to specifically avoid taking a lie detector test prior to testifying against her ex-husband, the remaining defendants, and our client.  

The defense attorneys, including Patricia Gitre, extensively cross examined the prosecution’s star witness, and showed the jury two different flavors of testimony the government’s key witness had to offer.  One that made her sound important for the prosecution, and another side that admitted Sherry Pierce had actually performed work for payments totally $31,500 undermining the government’s case and providing a big win for the defense.  Not only did Sherry Pierce work, she reported the income to the IRS. Ms. Norton on the other hand, did not report her income from the same consulting job to the IRS.

The case went to the jury after five weeks of trial. The jury returned, informing the Court they were irrevocably deadlocked 7 to 5 in favor of acquitting all of the defendants on all of the charges.  The court declared a mistrial due to the jury deadlocked in favor of total acquittal.  The jury Foreperson later told the media the government’s case was “weak” and that, by closing arguments, the prosecution looked like they had lost confidence in their own case.  The Foreperson also reported that the case turned on the unconvincing testimony of the government’s key witness, Kelly Norton, who was found to be less than reliable.  Faced with a case that was built by the prosecution on the credibility of one main witness, our focus was to thoroughly investigate the prosecution’s self serving immunity deal, including the prosecution’s agreement not to require their star witness to take a lie detector test as part of her deal.  At trial, the prosecution’s star witness tried to explain that she wanted to avoid taking a lie detector test because she thought they were unreliable.   Ultimately the majority of the jury found this witness’ testimony, including her inconsistent explanations during her testimony, to be unreliable.

The government soon after declined the opportunity to retry the defendants and sought formal dismissals of all five defendants on all counts.  The District Court granted the dismissals requested by the prosecution.