The federal trial of Columbus attorney Mark Shelnutt resumes Monday.
Shelnutt, facing charges including aiding and abetting a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, money laundering and attempted bribery, had a count of witness tampering tossed out by U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land on Friday at the government’s request. Land said he had “concerns” about the government’s case after jurors had left for the day, though he added he wasn’t ready to take the case from the jury.
“That was a good thing,” Shelnutt said of the judge dismissing the witness tampering charge. “The judge reserved ruling on the other motions.”Federal prosecutors rested their case late Friday afternoon. Defense attorneys Craig Gillen and Thomas Withers are expected to begin their defense today.
Authorities allege that Shelnutt told members of the Torrance Hill drug organization to bring him money, which Shelnutt then allegedly laundered. He’s also accused of failing to file financial information with the Internal Revenue Service, and of trying to bribe an assistant U.S. attorney with Georgia football tickets.
His trial began Nov. 9, and federal prosecutors called several people to the stand who authorities say are linked to the largest drug bust in Columbus history. Hill, his ex-wife Tamika, his ex-girlfriend Latea Davis and others allegedly connected to the drug ring testified that Shelnutt told them to collect drug money and bring it to him as payment for attorney’s fees.
Shelnutt’s May 21 indictment alleges a connection between Hill, who pleaded guilty to drug charges in 2006 and is serving a 24 1/2-year sentence. Shelnutt once represented Hill.
After Land tossed out the witness tampering count, defense attorneys then motioned for the remaining 39 counts against Shelnutt to be dismissed. As he left the courthouse on Friday with his wife, Mollie, Shelnutt said it had been a long week.
“But I have faith in the system and I trust the system,” he said. “I am looking forward to the conclusion of this case. This is what our system is about.”
The trial resumes at 8 a.m.
— Staff writer Chuck Williams contributed to this report