Fairley Trial Day 4: Government rests, defense puts on 7 witnesses

Fairley Trial Day 4: Government rests, defense puts on 7 witnesses
Kenneth Fairley/Photo credit: WDAM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Day four of the federal trial of Hub City pastor Kenneth Fairley kicked off with the government resting its case.

The government rested its case at 8:45 a.m. and the defense requested a directed verdict from District Judge Keith Starrett.

That motion for a directed verdict was denied, and the government proceeded with their first witness, Jonathan Brown.

First Witness:

Jonathan Brown, a Housing Development employee from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was the first witness called by the defense.

Brown testified how Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Community Housing Development Organizations (CHDO) operate.

"Once money comes from the city to a CHDO, it loses its title as HUD dollars," Brown said. "The CHDO doesn't have a relationship with HUD, only the municipality or city does, so the city is responsible for the CHDOs."

During cross-examination, Davis was questioned on how he deals with money in Florida as well as a little of his background.

Davis was questioned about his relationship with Fairley and Fairley's organization, Pinebelt Community Services (Pinebelt).

Davis claimed he has known Fairley for roughly 10 years.

"Expert" Witness issues:

Fairley's defense attempted to qualify three witnesses as "experts" during the course of the trial.

The government objected to the matter, adding that they were not informed of the potential experts until the middle of the trial.

"This is, I just can't… I can't come up with words to describe the issue that's before the court," Starrett said.

Starrett went through when orders were filed and deadlines of when discovery and items were due to the court.

Fairley's legal counsel accused the government of "trial by ambush".

"There has been a gross violation of negligence," Starrett said. "There are also rules and there is fair play."

Starrett detailed the importance and power of having an expert witness in a trial.

"My level of frustration I think is evident…, having to deal with discovery issues to the extent I have had to deal with in this case is just wrong," Starrett said. "Betting on a trial by ambush, which the defense has done is not right and fair."

Starrett denied the acceptance of the three expert witnesses, and moved to only allow them to testify as "fact witnesses," and the rule was invoked for any witnesses in the courtroom to leave until their testimony.

At that point, Arnold Spencer, Fairley's Dallas-based attorney, stepped into the audience to Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree.

"Are you going to testify?" Spencer said.

DuPree shook his head, and said no.

"Just go ahead and step out, it will mess with their mind as much as anything else," Spencer said to DuPree.

Second Witness:

The defense called Brent McDaniel, a former IRS agent and accountant with Price Waterhouse Cooper to testify on a "private 3 to 4 day investigation" he had conducted.

McDaniel said he had been investigating the accounts; however, he had no knowledge of the case prior to the "prepared summary" he was given by the defense.

McDaniel claimed that Fairley and Pinebelt actually spent more than $98,000 on rehabbing the two homes, one at 202 South Street and 127 East 5th.

"The church owned the properties or people in the church did," McDaniel said.

McDaniel testified that there were costs that occurred after the dates from September 2011 to the end of 2012.

During the cross examination, McDaniel was shown multiple land deeds, one of which was related to DuPree.

In 2003, one of the properties in question, 127 East 5th Street was purchased by DuPree in $33,576.00.

In 2005, DuPree quitclaimed the property to Mt. Carmel Baptist Church.

McDaniel was also asked how much he was paid to testify, which was disclosed that it was $15,000.

Third Witness:

The third witness called to the stand was Nick Autorina, president and CEO of WFN Consulting in Atlanta.

Autorina testified to the connection between HUD and the city of Hattiesburg, as well as the letter that was sent to the city by HUD officials saying the documentation was sufficient.

He was questioned on cross examination about if a third party had any responsibility related to HUD dollars, to which he agreed.

Fourth Witness:

The defenses fourth witness to testify was a Mt. Carmel church member, and maintenance worker, whose boss is Kenneth Fairley.

Gabriel Bobbitt, a Mt. Carmel member for 17 years, and an alleged contractor on the two home projects in question testified about his role in the work.

"Sometimes I would start at 7 in the morning and it could be 9 or 10 at night when I would finish," Bobbitt said.

Bobbitt said he was the "project manager" over the two projects and kept up with supervising workers and the materials on site.

He also stated that he felt like the work that was done was "quality work."

Former Hattiesburg City Council member Dave Ware was brought up, stating that he came at one point to inspect one of the homes in question.

He also said that he hired at least 10 contractors, 15 to 20 volunteers and even other people in the community for help, and that Interurban, Fletcher's company, did work for the projects.

On cross examination, he was questioned about the work that Interurban did.

"Well Mr. Fairley and Mr. Fletcher said no, they didn't do any work through Interurban," said Abe McGlothin, assistant U.S. attorney. "If Fairley and Fletcher said that Interurban did not do work on the project, they would be incorrect?"

"I guess so," Bobbitt said.

Fifth Witness:

The defense then called former FBI agent, Henry "Hank" Gillespie to testify.

Gillespie was questioned about the dates and the authentication of the audio recordings that were turned over to the government from Fletcher.

Sixth Witness:

The sixth witness to take the stand on behalf of the defense was Carla Irving, a Pinebelt board member, Mt. Carmel 10-year congregation member and "Conference Coordinator" for the church.

She also testified to the work that was done on the two homes in question.

"Interurban was our contractor," Irving said. "I worked to help do kitchens on both projects."

She testified that in 2012, to close out the project, Hattiesburg city employee Franklin Tate went to Pinebelt and asked for a form to be signed, but wanted it dated when the work was done.

She said they called Fletcher and then faxed the form to his secretary, and then it was sent back but signed in the wrong place, so they then called Fletcher again and he said:

"Well go ahead pastor and just sign it in the right place," Irving said speaking for Fletcher.

She also testified to the financial struggles that Mt. Carmel was facing, including $10,000 that the church owed for months for the mortgage.

Irving testified that Fletcher helped pay off mortgages for the church.

During cross examination Irving was questioned about a pair of checks she was given, one for roughly $500 and one for nearly $300 from Pinebelt and a pair of homes that she signed as a board member/ contractor on June 7, 2011.

Seventh Witness:

The final witness of the day was a consulting contractor Elliot Marsh from Soso.

He testified that he did estimations on the 202 South Street and 127 East 5th Street homes just a few months ago.

Marsh also testified that there was work done to both homes and that he made his estimations that totaled roughly $149,000.

For the house located at 202 South Street, he estimated that it cost $50,729.73 due to the work that was currently visible on the home.

For the house located at 127 East 5th Street, he estimated that is cost $98,283.29 due to the work that was currently visible on the home.

He also testified that he never saw those homes, or the actual work in progress being done, only just saw them in the last few months when he was asked to do his estimates.

Dismissed Early:

The jury was dismissed at 5 p.m. Friday, and sent home because defense witness testimony will continue Saturday morning at 9. The defense said they expect to call roughly five other witnesses, with one of them possibly being named as Anthony Harris.