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Rhonda Liddle's attorney files motion for mistrial
The attorney for Rhonda Liddle, who was recently convicted with her husband of defrauding AEA Federal Credit Union, has filed a motion for a mistrial on her behalf.
The motion was filed Feb. 24 by Mark Paige, defense attorney for Rhonda Liddle, the Yuma Sun learned this week.
Rhonda Liddle and her husband, William, were recently tried in U.S. District Court in Phoenix on 54 counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in a case that cost AEA millions of dollars and contributed to its insolvency.
On Feb. 10, the jury found Rhonda Liddle guilty on 36 counts. William Liddle, the former vice president of business lending for AEA, was found guilty on all 54 counts.
They are scheduled to be sentenced on May 21.
Paige's motion states that remarks during the government's rebuttal closing argument by a federal prosecutor regarding a conversation Rhonda Liddle had with an FBI agent were misleading.
During the trial, FBI agent Joseph Montoya testified he had approached Rhonda Liddle on November 2009 and encouraged her to cooperate in the investigation of her husband in multimillion-dollar fraud case. According to Montoya, she replied: “Are you asking me to choose between my husband of 25 years and the FBI?”
The motion states: “The most important aspect of the argument, and the subject of this motion, was the comment made by government counsel as to what Rhonda did not say to the agent. Government counsel argued that, when confronted by the agent, Rhonda did not challenge the truth of the accusation. She did not say that the ‘charges' were false ....”
However, the motion continued, Montoya noted in his report of the conversation that Rhonda Liddle “did challenge the accusation of the agent, at least as to her.”
“In this case, the government's remarks at the very close of its rebuttal argument were misleading at best,” the motion states. “Government counsel, while knowing that Rhonda did in fact challenge the accusation made by agent Montoya as to her conduct, argued to the jury that Rhonda never made such a challenge. ... The inference to the jury was that, in failing to dispute the allegations, Rhonda demonstrated a consciousness of guilt.”
This “implicated both her right to remain silent and shifted the burden of proof to the defendant,” the motion states.
Therefore, the motion seeks a mistrial, vacating the convictions, and determination as to whether a new trial is warranted or would be double jeopardy for the defendant.
Joyce Lobeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6853. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YSJoyceLobeck or on Twitter at @YSJoyceLobeck.