Comcast defendant prepares appeal
By By Suzanne Monk/managing editor
Jan 6, 2002
One of C.D. "Bubba" Newell's new attorneys has confirmed she will appeal his conviction in the "Comcast trial" to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Michele Fournet contends that Newell's trial attorney, Henry Palmer of Meridian, had an insurmountable conflict of interest that made it impossible for the former banker to receive a fair trial.
The three-week money-laundering trial took place in U.S. District Court in Meridian from late March through mid-April of last year. The U.S. Attorney's 21-count indictment alleged that David Van Colvin, then regional manager of Comcast-Primestar, and four local business people defrauded Comcast of $2.6 million between 1994 and 1996.
Colvin pleaded guilty in 1999, and agreed to testify in the trial of his alleged co-conspirators.
Palmer represented two of the defendants: Newell and building contractor Wayne Raley.
After Fournet was hired late last year, she filed a brief in U.S. District Court amplifying on Palmer's earlier motion for a new trial.
The 18-page memorandum makes several key points:
Fournet further argues it was difficult or impossible for Palmer to even phrase questions during direct testimony or cross-examination in Raley's behalf that did not elicit testimony that implicated Newell;
The Baton Rogue, La., attorney characterizes Newell's defense as an "afterthought" to Raley's, asserting that Palmer spent significantly less time defending Newell. In one example she cites, Palmer, running out of time in closing arguments, commented that he would have to "hurry some now" for Newell but continued arguing for Raley;
Even though Newell was cautioned about possible damage to his defense, and waived his right to hire another attorney, Fournet asserts that a layman may not understand the subtleties involved in a criminal trial. His consent, then, was essentially uninformed and it was the responsibility of the judge to protect his right to fair trial; and
Fournet cites a secondary conflict in the fact that one of Palmer's law partners, Charlie Wright, represented another Comcast defendant in the same trial.
Judge denies motion
Fournet summed her position up as follows:
U.S. District Judge Tom Lee has denied Fournet's motion for new trial. She says it's because she missed a filing deadline while she read the voluminous trial transcript.
Palmer withdrew as Newell's attorney in early October.
He could not be reached to comment on Fournet's assertion that it was ill-advised to take on both clients, but the question had been asked by court observers during the Comcast trial.
Asked in April after the trial why he represented both men, Palmer said, "because they wanted me to."
Of all the Comcast defendants, Newell is the only one Colvin directly accused. Of him, Colvin repeatedly said, "Mr. Newell was my banker. He knew where the money was coming from."
Palmer said there was no conflict of interest only a dishonest man who deceived his friends and business associates. Palmer said Colvin sold his co-defendants out for a lighter sentence.
Newell's appeal cannot go forward until after he is sentenced. That hearing, originally set for June 22, has been rescheduled several times and is now on hold indefinitely.