The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans granted a new trial to one of two defendants convicted of fraud and money laundering in the "Comcast Trial."
Advertising agency owner Kim Gianakos was convicted in April of 2001 of mail fraud. Banker Bubba Newell was found guilty of 17 charges, including mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and income tax evasion. The case related to billing practices involving Comcast Cable and its president David Colvin. Both appealed.
Thursday the appeals court confirmed the conviction of Gianakos but overturned Newell's and ordered the government to give him a new trial.
The court said Gianakos should have known David Colvin was acting illegally when she issued false statements at his request. Her attorney, Frank Trapp, commented Friday that he was "personally very disappointed" and that it was "a terrible irony that she faces incarceration and Newell will get a new trial."
Newell's conviction was overturned on the basis that local attorney Henry Palmer represented two defendants, Newell and Wayne Raley, and allegedly sacrificed Newell to the benefit of Raley, who was acquitted.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote, "that there was an actual conflict of interest in Palmer's representation of both Newell and Raley is plain. Start to finish, Palmer presented at trial a lop-sided defense strategy centering on Raley's simple-minded trust of Newell and Newell's confederacy with Colvin, the undisputed mastermind of the illegal operation."
On that basis, the court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. Attempts to contact Palmer for a response to the charges were unsuccessful.
Gianakos is expected to report to prison near the end of January. Her attorney has requested she serve her 18-month term in the federal prison at Byron, Texas. An informed observer said there may be a plea bargain discussed between Newell and the government.