Comcast defendants sentenced
By By Suzanne Monk/managing editor
Jan. 29, 2002
It felt like the end of a long process but was really the beginning of another, as C.D. "Bubba" Newell and Kim Gianakos appeared Monday before U.S. District Judge Tom Lee to be sentenced for their parts in a scheme to defraud Comcast.
The hearing came more than nine months after the "Comcast trial" ended in mid-April of last year.
Newell was sentenced to four years, nine months in a federal penitentiary; Gianakos was sentenced to 18 months. Together with principal Comcast defendant David Van Colvin, they were also ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution to Comcast.
With sentencing behind them, both Newell and Gianakos plan to appeal their convictions to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Newell, a former vice president of Trustmark National Bank, was convicted of all counts against him conspiracy to commit wire/mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money-laundering, 12 counts of money-laundering and three counts of tax evasion.
Defendants convicted in federal court are sentenced according to a complicated set of guidelines.
Probation officers first determine a baseline sentencing "score" for the defendant, depending on the kind of crimes involved. Points can then be added or subtracted from this score, based on a number of factors such as the amount of money involved and the prior criminal history.
Attorney Richard Crane of Nashville represented Newell at the hearing. Newell has engaged a second attorney, Michele Fournet of Baton Rouge, to handle his appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The major thrust of the appeal is that Newell's trial attorney, Henry Palmer of Meridian, was unwise to represent both Newell and a second Comcast defendant in the same trial. Fournet claims it created an insurmountable conflict of interest that made it impossible for the former banker to receive a fair trial.
The judge, in allowing Newell to remain free on bond, acknowledged that Fournet had raised substantive appeal issues.
Crane said it's a good indicator.
Gianakos, who owned a marketing firm that did business with Comcast, was acquitted of two conspiracy counts, but convicted of mail fraud.
Her attorney, Frank Trapp, won some sentencing arguments against Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bob Anderson and Harold Brittain and lost others.
But, he carried the day on the idea that Gianakos was entitled to special consideration outside the usual federal sentencing guidelines because of her "extraordinary" civic contributions and charitable activities.
What swayed the judge was more than 100 letters of support he received from Meridian residents.
Lee granted a departure from the federal guidelines, sentencing Gianakos to just 18 months and allowing her to remain free pending the outcome of her appeal.
A sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate for the final Comcast defendant, David Van Colvin, is expected to be scheduled in the near future.
The U.S. Attorney's 21-count indictment alleged that David Van Colvin, then regional manager of Comcast-Primestar, and four Meridian business people defrauded Comcast of $2.6 million between 1994 and 1996.
Colvin was the acknowledged "man in the middle" of the scheme. He pleaded guilty in 1999, and agreed to testify in the trial of four alleged co-conspirators. The three-week trial took place in U.S. District Court in Meridian from late March to mid-April.
The jury acquitted two of these defendants, Kary Graham and Wayne Raley. Newell was convicted of all counts against him. Gianakos was acquitted of two conspiracy counts, but convicted of mail fraud.