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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Jurors Deadlocked in Army Corruption Case

MANHATTAN (CN) - Jurors told the judge they are "deadlocked" in determining the fate of U.S. Army Capt. Bryant Williams, accused of bribing military contractors in Iraq and taking kickbacks. Williams claimed that the tens of the thousands of dollars, most of which he kept in locked duffel bags, were gambling winnings from card games with military contractors.

"We are deadlocked," jurors wrote on Thursday in a note to U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones. "Please advise."

They later requested instruction from the judge on the distinction between "reasonable doubt" and "all possible doubt."

Prosecutors say that Williams bribed, pressured and threatened Harith Aljabawi and Mike Naji, owners of Joshua Construction and Phoenix Contractors, respectively, to give him a cut of their contracts with his unit.

Aljabawi pleaded guilty to accepting $500,000 in corrupt contract money, and he testified against Williams as part of a cooperation agreement with the government. Naji also testified as part of a non-prosecution agreement.

During summations on Tuesday, prosecutors said the men's testimony was reliable because lying on the witness stand would invalidate their cooperation and non-prosecution agreements.

Defense attorney David Greenfield countered that those agreements bound them to give consistent, rather than honest, testimony. He added that Aljabawi admitted in his guilty plea to previously lying to the government.

"Now you have to believe him because now he's a believable guy," Greenfield said.

Whereas prosecutor Steve 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.

"Would you buy a car from him? You wouldn't even buy a junker from him," he added.

Williams has denied taking a "penny" from contractors as kickbacks. He said that the tens of thousands of dollars he stored in duffel bags came from months of winnings at the card game Tonka. The defense submitted photographs of him gambling with contractors into evidence.

As a Louisiana resident, Williams said, he played a lot of cards, and his wife disapproved of his habits as "risky."

Williams twice transported cash-stuffed duffel bags from Iraq to the U.S., and he sent more money by wire and mail.

All told, Lee said Williams transferred $35,500 in gambling winnings from 46 weeks, which breaks down to $770 per week while playing in a war zone under a rain of mortars.

"He would have to be the luckiest gambler in the world," Lee said.

It would appear that jurors, at least for now, have a split pot, although deliberations are continuing today.

If convicted, Williams could face up to 15 years in prison.

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