HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A Hub City pastor convicted of defrauding the U.S. Government has been denied his request for an acquittal and a new trial.
Kenneth Fairley, 62, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit theft of government money, and two counts of receiving, retaining, concealing or converting money that belonged to the government during his trial that ended Sept. 12th 2016.
"The jury found the defendant guilty of Counts 1, 2, and 3, and the Court finds that there is no basis to grant a verdict of acquittal or a new trial," said District Judge Keith Starrett in his court order.
It took 6 hours and 20 minutes for a jury of 12, made up of seven women, and five men, with six black jurors and six white jurors to return the unanimous verdict.
"In order for the Court to grant a Judgment of Acquittal pursuant to F.R. Crim. P. 29, the Court would have to find that no rational jury, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, could have found the essential elements of the offense to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt," said Starrett. "In order for the Court to grant a new trial pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 33, the Court would have to have a real concern that an innocent person may have been convicted."
In previous motions filed by Fairley, there were objections to the recordings played to the jury.
"The Court admitted, over the defendant's objections, recordings of conversations between Fairley and his co-defendant, Artie Fletcher, and allowed them to be played for the jury," said Starrett.
Statements in the case were also previously overruled as hearsay by Judge Starrett.
"The recordings are of conversations between the two co-conspirators, Kenneth Fairley, and Artie Fletcher, defendants in this case," said Starrett.
Starrett detailed the aspects of the crime throughout his response.
"The conversations involve many things related to the conspiracy, including but not limited to, efforts to file documents to adequately document alleged work done on the project, including allowing Fairley to sign Fletcher's name, attempts by Fletcher to be repaid "seed money" put into the project and other general topics of conversation, most which surround the conspiracy," said Starrett. "Defendant argues that these statements were not made in the course of the conspiracy, nor in the furtherance of the conspiracy."
According to Starrett, the Court found that they were and the statements speak to the fact that they were.
"The indictment alleges that the conspiracy began in August 2010 and continued through on or about Dec. 12, 2012. The recordings were made during the alleged period," said Starrett.
Starrett said that they were significant evidence in the case that proved the conspiracy.
"The tapes reveal that Fletcher and Fairley were involved in a scheme to allow Fairley to submit inflated bills for reimbursement and pocket the difference in the bills and the actual costs," said Starrett.
Objections made to IRS Special Agent Bradley Luker's testimony were also addressed by Starrett, including the fact Luker did not testify as an expert witness.
"The jury clearly heard the evidence and rejected Fairley's position," said Starrett.
Fairley is set to appear for his sentencing on Dec. 19th at 2:00 p.m. at the William M. Colmer Federal Building & United States Courthouse.
Fletcher, the co-defendant in the case, pleaded guilty on Sept. 2 before Judge Starrett to misprision of a felony. His sentencing date was set for Dec. 19, with the maximum penalty being three years in prison with one year post-release supervision and up to a $250,000 fine.