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Espy trial goes to jury

By Ted Barrett/CNN

WASHINGTON (December 1) -- Jury deliberations began Tuesday in the corruption trial of former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, accused of 30 counts of taking gifts from companies his department regulated and then lying about it.

After 70 witnesses over two months of trial, closing arguments were heard Monday.

Espy
Mike Espy  

Defense lawyer Theodore Wells called the case "a bunch of garbage, pure garbage."

"There's an insanity to these allegations," Wells argued.

"He didn't do anything wrong," Wells said. "He is innocent, he is innocent, he is innocent."

Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz, who led the four-year, $17 million investigation of Espy, delivered the closing for the government.

"This case is not about one mistake or two or three mistakes," Smaltz said. "It's about 18 instances over 16 months when Secretary Espy took things of value from companies he regulated."

Espy, a former congressman from Mississippi and the first African-American to head the Agriculture Department, sat calmly, sometimes shaking his head during Smaltz's 90-minute closing.

Espy resigned as Agriculture secretary at the end of 1994 after allegations surfaced that he had accepted illegal gratuities.

He is accused of taking more than $30,000 in gifts from Tyson Foods, Quaker Oats, Sun Diamond Growers and other companies regulated by the Agriculture Department and then lying about it.

Wells told the jury Espy made decisions based on merit and often against the interests of the companies that allegedly gave him the gifts.

"Why else would Tyson give this sort of treatment to Mr. Espy?" Smaltz asked. "It was only because he was secretary of Agriculture."

Of the 17 people in the jury pool, 15 are black and just two are white.



RELATED STORIES

Judge throws out 8 1/2 counts against Espy (11-24-98)

Lobbyist says he was pressured to testify against Espy (10-31-98)

Espy called ethics rules 'junk' (10-6-98)

Espy trial starts Thursday (9-30-98)

Espy pleads not guilty (9-10-97)



RELATED SITES

Department of Agriculture Web site

Tyson Food Web site



MORE STORIES:

Tuesday, December 1, 1998

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