More than a year after being indicted in an alleged kickback scheme when investigators produced a recording that seemed to suggest guilt, former Jeffco treasurer Mark Paschall was found not guilty of one of the felony counts he was facing.
The second count — compensation for past official behavior — left the jury deadlocked, and lawyers will come together at 8 a.m. Feb. 28 to determine if that charge will be retried or dismissed.
"I think justice has been done," Paschall said as he walked out of a Jefferson County courtroom Friday with two sisters and his firstborn son. "I maintained my innocence all along," Paschall said, adding that when everything is settled, he will be completely exonerated.
Paschall said he never was serious when he appeared to suggest that appointee Kathy Redmond give him a portion of a bonus he was offering her.
"I'm sorry it took such an evil and terrible twist," Paschall said. "It's been an excruciatingly painful year." He said he lost two friends as a result of the ordeal — County Commissioner Jim Congrove and Redmond — and that that was one of the most painful aspects.
"I believe the people have lost a good public servant," Paschall said.
Paschall, Jeffco's elected treasurer from Jan. 1, 2003, to Dec. 31, 2006, was accused of soliciting a kickback from Redmond days before he was to leave office. Redmond testified during the three-day trial that Paschall told her he was going to give her a "ridiculous amount of money" on the condition that she give him half. The amount in question was about $24,000 before taxes, leaving $18,000 to split.
Redmond, with the aid of former Jeffco district attorney’s Investigator Carl Blesch, recorded two phone conversations between her and Paschall, and she saved several voice messages. In one of the phone conversations, Paschall talks about the fact that Congrove "took issue" with the amount of the check, and blocked it from going forward. Redmond asked Paschall how he had listed the check in county paperwork.
"It was listed as a bonus/award," Paschall said. "A third for taxes, then a third and a third," he continued.
"So a third for taxes, a third for me and a third for you?" Redmond asked.
"Right," Paschall replied.
David Lane, Paschall's attorney, argued that Paschall was attempting to give Redmond a four-month severance, since she would be out of a job when he left office. The comments about “a third and a third and a third” came about because Redmond kept asking Paschall about what to do with the money, and how it might affect her prospects for unemployment, so he made a "flippant, off-the-cuff" comment about a third for taxes and a third for him, according to Lane. Redmond did concede under cross-examination by Lane that Paschall said she could do whatever she wanted with the money, including not giving him anything.
Lane claimed that Congrove took advantage of the comment after he was told about it by Redmond to score political payback, because Paschall wouldn’t reveal his grand jury testimony about Congrove in an investigation of county money that was spent on a private investigator to spy on private citizens and a former employee.
Redmond claimed that she didn't want to accept the money, even though she asked Paschall about the tax impact and asked her sister, an accountant, about the taxes owed on the amount.
Paschall said that he was trying to help Redmond and the incoming treasurer, Faye Griffin, who he said was facing pressure from Congrove about keeping Redmond on through April.
Jurors told District Judge Randall Arp midway through the morning Feb. 15 that they had a verdict on one count but were deadlocked on the other. After breaking for lunch and coming back for two more deliberation sessions, the result was the same.
"It was not a strong enough case from the prosecution," said Richard Myroth, one of the 12 jurors who acquitted Paschall on the charge of criminal attempted theft. "A few of the jurors thought other witnesses should have been called to fill in some of the holes. Further recordings would have cemented the case.
"We were disappointed as a professional that he had the lack of memory that he did," Myroth said of Blesch, who orchestrated the tapings of Paschall with Redmond. Blesch insisted that he didn’t want Redmond to lead Paschall in any way, but it came out in testimony that Blesch held up a note in an attempt to coach her and guide the conversation. Jurors were disappointed that neither Blesch or Redmond could remember what was in the note, Myroth said.
Jeffco District Attorney Scott Storey said his office conducted a thorough investigation.
"We took these allegations very seriously," Storey said after the verdict. "We took it seriously, and the grand jury took it seriously. We presented the evidence to the grand jury, and the grand jury indicted Mr. Paschall. Obviously, we wouldn't have brought it to the grand jury if we thought there wasn't sufficient evidence to charge."
Storey doesn't buy Lane's contention that Congrove was at the center of this case by orchestrating political payback.
"As far as I'm concerned, he had nothing to do with this other than he called me to report the incident," Storey said.
Late in the trial it was revealed that Redmond had been put up in a Breckenridge condo when Paschall's indictment was revealed in the press. Lane asked the lead prosecutor in the case, Tom Jackson, if he knew about it, and Jackson denied any knowledge. Lane said he had a right to question Redmond about the condo stay, and to see who paid for it.
"I don't know a lot about that," Storey said. "Is that relevant to the allegations in this case? I doubt it."