MANHATTAN (CN) - Army Capt. Bryant Williams "put greed above his duty" and "profits above patriotism" in bribing military contractors for kickbacks in Iraq, federal prosecutors said in closing arguments Tuesday. Williams' defense countered that the government's case relies on testimony from a used-car salesman whom no juror would "even buy a junker from."
"Would you buy a car from him? You wouldn't even buy a junker from him," attorney David Greenfield said of government witness Harith Aljabawi.
Aljabawi pleaded guilty to corruption charges in January 2009. His brother Naji testified under a non-prosecution agreement.
Williams testified that he won tens of thousands of dollars not from corrupt deals with contractors but from gambling that he hid from the Army - and the tax man - because gambling was against Army rules.
Aljabawi and Naji, referred to by both lawyers as "Mike and Harry," owned the companies Joshua Construction and Phoenix Contractors, respectively.
Forty-seven percent of the contracts in Williams' unit went to these companies while Williams was in charge, prosecutor Steve Lee said during summations.
Williams had testified that Aljabawi and Naji got the contracts because they were willing to work "off the FOB [Forward Operating Base]' in the section of Iraq known as the "Triangle of Death." None of the other contractors were "willing to put themselves in harm's way," he said.
Aljabawi and Naji testified that Williams demanded percentages and flat fees for contracts, which increased over time. Both said that Williams took them aside to a private barn, pulled out an Army weapon and threatened them when they began taking their services to other units.
One brother claims that Williams said, "You're from New York. You know what happens when someone plays games with the Mafia?"
Another said that Williams used the phrase "drug dealers" instead of Mafia.
Prosecutor Lee said the apparent contradiction showed that the brothers did not compare notes with each other.
Greenfield countered that it is unlikely that two brothers who were "attached at the hip at everything they do" avoided talking about the case for more than 2 years.
Lee said the testimony of contractors Aljabawi and his brother Mike Naji were reliable because lying on the witness stand would invalidate their cooperation and non-prosecution agreements.
Greenfield replied that a jury assesses the truthfulness of their testimony, essentially contracting the witnesses to give consistent, rather than honest, testimony. He added that in his guilty plea, Aljabawi admitting to lying to the government previously.
"Now you have to believe him because now he's a believable guy," Greenfield said.
Whereas Lee said the witnesses were "responsive" and "not evasive," Greenfield said "it was like pulling teeth" to get Aljabawi merely to acknowledge what he did for a living.
Aljabawi said he worked in "auto parts" and "with cars" before testifying that he owned a used-car store, Greenfield said.
Greenfield added that Aljabawi cheated on his taxes and told him to "believe" him that he did not know where his nephew lived.
He said that "believe him" describes "exactly what the government wants you to do." Without their eyewitness testimony, prosecutors had only evidence of money transfers and witnesses who did not observe corrupt acts, the attorney said.