Prosecutors oppose Shelnutt’s motion

ariquelmy@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 8, 2009 

Prosecutors filed a response Tuesday in the federal case against Columbus attorney Mark Shelnutt that opposes a motion by Shelnutt to toss out three counts of making false statements.

Shelnutt’s motion asking U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land to dismiss the last three counts in his 40-count indictment are based on a Feb. 28, 2008, conversation the attorney had with a federal prosecutor and FBI agent.

In his June motion, Shelnutt argues that the government failed to name an offense.

The three counts of making false statements accuse Shelnutt of lying to the FBI agent about the payment of legal fees and writing receipts for fees.

“At most, the questions presented to Mr. Shelnutt by the agent were fundamentally ambiguous because the agent did not establish a clear question that called for a clear answer,” one of Shelnutt’s motions states.

In its Tuesday motion, the government argues that Shelnutt is trying to test the prosecutor’s case before trial — something he can’t do, states Carlton Bourne Jr., special attorney to the attorney general.

“Defendant ignores the controlling authority in this circuit that well-pled criminal charges are not subject to dismissal based on what the evidence might be at trial,” the government’s response states. “Shelnutt may dispute the government’s evidence at trial, but not before.”

Shelnutt is accused in his May indictment of aiding and abetting a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, money laundering, witness tampering and attempted bribery.

The indictment alleges a connection between Shelnutt and convicted drug dealer Torrance Hill, whom Shelnutt represented and who pleaded guilty in federal court in December 2006.

Hill was sentenced in February 2007 to 24 1/2 years in prison.

Land has scheduled a July 14 hearing to examine several of Shelnutt’s motions.

Shelnutt’s trial is scheduled for Sept. 8.

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