Judge denies Rhonda Liddle's motion for mistrial
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton has denied Rhonda Liddle's motion for a mistrial in her jury conviction Feb. 10 on 36 counts of fraudulent use of AEA Federal Credit Union funds.
“There was no government misconduct,” Bolton said in her order. “Even if a motion had been timely made, there was no basis for a mistrial. It is ordered denying defendant Rhonda Liddle's motion for mistrial.”
Rhonda Liddle is scheduled to be sentenced May 21 along with her husband, William, who was found guilty of 54 counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in the case that cost AEA millions of dollars and drove it to insolvency. The misuse of funds took place while William Liddle was the vice president of business lending for AEA, during which time he made millions of dollars in bad business loans.
In addition, Bolton set a restitution hearing for 9 a.m. June 19 in U.S. District Court in Phoenix for the Liddles and co-defendant Frank Ruiz. Restitution is the money a judge orders an offender to pay to the victim to compensate for damages related to a crime.
A year ago, Ruiz pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of money laundering. He was sentenced by Bolton on April 9 to 24 months behind bars and three years of supervised probation, receiving leniency for his role in the prosecution of the Liddles.
Ruiz is to voluntarily turn himself in to prison by June 29.
In its case against the three defendants, the U.S. government asserted that the Liddles received almost $1 million from Ruiz in exchange for $22 million in fraudulent loans made by William Liddle to Ruiz as the developer of Yuma Fun Factory, Top of the Kress and other business dealings.
Even with the anticipated recoveries by AEA from the sale of assets acquired, more than $18 million remains unaccounted for, said Tom Martin, interim chief executive officer of AEA, in a letter to the court.
AEA has been in conservatorship by the National Credit Union Administration since December 2010.
Rhonda Liddle's attorney, Mark Paige, filed the motion for mistrial on Feb. 24, arguing that remarks by a federal prosecutor during the government's closing argument were misleading and “implicated both her right to remain silent and shifted the burden of proof to the defendant.”
The remarks related to a conversation Rhonda Liddle had with Joseph Montoya, an FBI agent, during his investigation into the fraud case.
In denying the mistrial motion, Bolton stated: “The final argument was an accurate summary of the earlier testimony at trial. It was not misstated or taken out of context. ... There was no objection at trial that the direct examination was inaccurate or otherwise misleading. Defense counsel did not elicit the additional statements detailed in Agent Montoya's report that defendant did not understand how she was involved in any wrongdoing.”
Joyce Lobeck can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6853. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YSJoyceLobeck or on Twitter at @YSJoyceLobeck.