Trisha Volpe, Kare11
Kare 11 News | Wednesday, November 18, 2009
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The defense team for Tom Petters wrapped up it’s direct examination of the embroiled CEO Thursday morning, and now prosecutors have their shot at poking holes in his case.
Petters is hoping to convince a federal jury he is not guilty of money laundering, fraud and conspiracy charges.
It was the prosecution’s first opportunity to question Petters directly since his arrest. During questioning, prosecuter Joe Dixon asked Petters “You claim you had no idea what was going on in your company?”
“Yes,” was Petters’ simple reply. Dixon then pressed him on accusations of filing false tax returns, and the qualifications of top executives Petters hired to run his multi-billion dollar companies.
Earlier, the defense wrapped it’s direct questioning of Petters. Attorney Jon Hopeman asked Petters to explain the backdrop of secret recordings the juy heard that ’sounded’ incriminating.
Wednesday afternoon Petters described to the court his relationships with people who have already pleaded guilty for their part in the more than $3 billion ponzi scheme. Petters said his top company executives took control of his company and turned it into a fraud without his knowledge.
Prosecutors have not yet had a chance to cross examine Petters, but court officials say his testimony could wrap up by the end of the day Thursday. That would open the way for any rebuttal witnesses and closing arguments.
On Wednesday, Petters told the court about his son John’s murder in 2004 and how that affected him.
Defense attorney Jon Hopeman asked, “In the aftermath of the murder were you able to get back to work?”
Petters choked up when he told the jury, “I tried, but if anyone has ever experienced the loss of a child…it’s devastating.”
It was so devastating Petters said he often did business from home to avoid going into the office, putting ice on his eyes before meetings to get rid of the redness from crying.
The defense has argued that after the murder Petters immersed himself in work, paying little attention to major financial decisions happening around him.
Petters told the court Deanna Coleman and Bob White were responsible for many of those decisions. They testified earlier to forging documents that lured investors into thinking they were funding deals to purchase electronics.
Attorney Hopeman asked, “Did you think that Coleman and White were doing all those deals?”
Petters answered, “If you believe in Santa clause…I thought that we were doing a few deals here and there…we knew people who were doing deals and financing them…then I thought we had a company that was making a lot of money”
Petters testified he signed documents handed to him, often without looking, believing that Coleman and white were running his business legitimately.
“Did you think Coleman would lie to you about these deals?” asked Hopeman.
“No,” said Petters.
Hopeman later asked, “Did you know about any of the false purchase orders.”
“No…if I knew someone was doing that inside our company…I would have fired them,” Petters answered.
The defense has also argued that Petters is an ideas man, but has a short attention span, easily gets off track. That was evidenced in court when Petters often got off topic several times, often having to be reined in by his attorney and the judge.
Hopeman told him, “Don’t go sideways…keep going straight.”
Petters told the judge, “I’ll try to slowdown.”
Petters’ testimony continues on Thursday. The prosecution will get a chance to cross examine him.