Defense: Geddings Was Victim Of 'Coincidence Of Timing'
Posted September 21, 2006 5:35 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — A former state lottery commissioner standing trial for fraud didn't disclose his past financial relationship with a lottery company that wanted to do business with the state because he no longer worked there, his attorney said Thursday during opening arguments.
Kevin Geddings stopped working for Scientific Games Corp. a month and a half before his appointment in September 2005 to the North Carolina Education Lottery Commission, said lawyer Thomas Manning, but continued to receive payments from the company in September and October because of paperwork delays.
"It's a coincidence of timing that looks so awful," Manning said.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Duffy said Geddings had several chances to disclose his relationship with New York-based Scientific Games and chose not to do so. Geddings attended at least two lottery commission meetings and filed a financial disclosure form asking for information about possible conflicts of interest, Duffy told jurors during his opening statement.
"What was not said in those public meetings speaks volumes," Duffy said. "Not a word said about receiving money from Scientific Games."
The language on that financial disclosure form is expected to be a key point in the trial. Manning said the form asks about possible conflicts of interest, not about past business relationships.
Prosecutors have said Scientific Games and companies later bought by the firm paid Geddings more than $250,000 over several years. Geddings is on trial for eight counts of fraud for failing to reveal contract work between he and his wife's public relations firm and Scientific Games in efforts to bring lotteries to the Carolinas, Tennessee and Oklahoma.
Beth Carpenter, a State Board of Ethics official who evaluated Geddings' economic disclosure form, was the first witness to testify in the case. She verified that Geddings had not reported any direct payments from Scientific Games on the document, but that he did acknowledge doing public relations work for a company later acquired by Scientific Games.
Manning questioned whether state ethics rules or the directions on the form made it clear that Geddings was required to report all past business relationships that may cause the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Geddings resigned from the lottery commission in November, less than six weeks after he was named to the panel. Since his indictment, he has moved from Charlotte to Florida, where he works at a St. Augustine radio station owned by his wife.
A grand jury originally charged Geddings with nine fraud counts, but prosecutors dropped one wire fraud charge against Geddings before jury selection began. He faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines on each count.
During his opening statement, Duffy also said Geddings was appointed to the commission a day after House Speaker Jim Black met with Alan Middleton, then a vice president of Scientific Games Corp., and Meredith Norris, Black's unpaid political director who also working as a lobbyist for Scientific Games. It was decided at the meeting that Black would recommend Geddings as one of his two choices to the nine-member board, Duffy contended.
Norris pleaded no contest in August to charges she broke state law by failing to register as a lobbyist. She was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation and 75 hours of community service. Middleton is also charged with failing to register as a lobbyist.
Black, D-Mecklenburg, has previously said he didn't know that Geddings had worked for Scientific Games and wouldn't have appointed him if he had known of the connection. Ken Bell, an attorney for Black listening to the trial, declined comment.
Manning said Geddings had expressed interest in serving on the lottery board at one time but had been told it wasn't going to happen.
"There was no five-year-long plan or scheme to get Kevin appointed," Manning told jurors, adding that his appointment "was as close to an accident as can possibly happen in politics."
Other witnesses who testified Thursday include Geddings' former business associates.
The trial is in recess until Monday.