February 9, 2017 in News
NOT guilty on nine counts; guilty on one
By Othor Cain
After a little more than six hours of deliberations, a 12-member jury hearing the embezzlement trial of Downtown Jackson Partners President Ben Allen, found him guilty of only one count in a ten count indictment.
That one guilty verdict was for paying $1,738.37 for his and his wife’s cell phone bills using DJP funds. The ten-count indictment included allegations that Allen misused and embezzled public funds for his personal use.
Allen’s lawyers maintained throughout the trial that he was given permission by the board of directors and the executive committee of DJP to operate in the manner in which he did. “Mr. Allen was given this authority and we proved that during this trial,” Merrida Coxwell, Allen’s attorney said. “While we are pleased with the jury finding Mr. Allen not guilty of nine of the ten counts, I remain frustrated that he wasn’t totally vindicated during this process.”
Count IV, in which the jury found Allen guilty of, specifically charged him with: “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously covert to his own use any money or other valuable thing to with a $1,738.37 for payment of Benjamin Wade Allen III and Susan Allen’s personal cell phone bill said $1,738.37 being the lawful property of Downtown Jackson Partners, a nonprofit corporation, which lawful currency came into his possession by virtue of his employment at Downtown Jackson Partners, a nonprofit corporation, and which monies he did not return to Downtown Jackson Partners in violation of Miss. Code Ann. 97-11-25.”
Coxwell said count four was the easiest to prove Allen’s innocence. “The jury had receipts and invoices showing Mr. Allen paid this money back and not only that, he paid more than what was owed,” Coxwell said.
The Mississippi Link spoke to one of the jurors after the trial who admitted the jury saw invoices. “This was the only one that we had any actual documentation that Allen used DJP money,” the juror who did not want to be identified said.” “This caused us alarm that he would use their (DJP) money for his own personal use and that of his wife.”
The juror also acknowledged that it took them a long time during deliberations on count nine of the indictment that alleges Allen falsified documents in an attempt to defraud public money in the amount of $65,745.24 to a fraudulent business incubator program. “We got caught up and after reading several documents many times, we finally concluded that we couldn’t prove that,” the juror shared. “In the end we think the DA’s office didn’t really present a solid argument on the state’s behalf.”
Circuit Judge Winston Kidd, who presided over the case set sentencing for Allen March 6 at 11 a.m.