Feds oppose Liddle's motion for mistrial
The prosecution has issued its opposition to a new trial for Rhonda Liddle, who recently was found guilty with her husband of misuse of AEA Federal Credit Union funds.
The opposition was expressed in a document filed this week in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.
The motion for a mistrial was filed Feb. 24, stating that remarks by a federal prosecutor during the government's closing rebuttal during the Liddles' trial were misleading.
The remarks related to a conversation Rhonda Liddle had with Joseph Montoya, an FBI agent, during his investigation into the fraud case in which he encouraged her to cooperate with the FBI. She responded by asking if she was “being asked to choose between my husband of 25 years or talk to the FBI?”
Prosecutor Raymond Woo argued that Rhonda Liddle did not challenge the truth of the accusation made by Montoya to her that she was involved in the wrongdoing by her husband and two others.
“In this case, the government's remarks at the very close of its rebuttal argument were misleading at best,” the defendant's motion states. “Government counsel, while knowing that Rhonda did in fact challenge the accusation made by agent Montoya 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 her right to remain silent and shifted the burden of proof to the defendant,” the motion states.
After reviewing trial testimony, the prosecution asked the court to summarily deny the defendant's motion because “the defendant waived her claim of error by failing to timely object and or move for a mistrial.”
In addition, the prosecution said in its response that “the statements at issue were factually accurate” and not prohibited by a Ninth Circuit's recent decision.
Furthermore, the prosecution stated, “the statements at issue were not an indirect comment on the defendant's failure to testify at trial ... or for assuming that the jury would necessarily interpret the prosecutor's statements as doing so.”
The prosecution concluded: “The United States respectfully requests this court to summarily deny defendant Rhonda Liddle's request for a new trial. The error that defendant belatedly argues occurred is not error at all, and even it could be characterized as error, it is not the type that so infected the fairness of the proceeding or integrity of the verdict that it justifies a new trial despite the fact that it was waived by defendant. Defense counsel's failure to object is itself indicative of the absence of error.”
The Liddles were tried in U.S. District Court in Phoenix on 54 counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in the case that defrauded AEA of millions of dollars in bad loans that led to its insolvency.
On Feb. 10, the jury found Rhonda Liddle guilty of 36 counts. Her husband, William Liddle, former vice president of business lending for AEA, was found guilty of all 54 counts.
They are scheduled to be sentenced on May 21.
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.