- The Washington Times - Monday, August 15, 2005

A U.S. District Court judge yesterday dropped four of 27 counts against three former Washington Teachers Union officials as their two-month trial neared its end.

The ex-officials — former treasurer James O. Baxter II, former office manager Gwendolyn Hemphill and former accountant James A. Goosby — are accused of participating in schemes that led to the theft of about $5 million from the union’s treasury.

Five former union members have pleaded guilty, including former president, Barbara A. Bullock, who is serving nine years in prison.

The dismissed counts stemmed from fax messages from 1998 to 2002 sent among the defendants. Three counts were against Mr. Baxter, 50, and Mrs. Hemphill, 64. The fourth count included Mr. Goosby, 56.

“I’m very confident that closing arguments will begin Wednesday,” said Judge Richard J. Leon after conferring with prosecutors and defense attorneys about the remaining witnesses.

The first defense witness Friday afternoon was Yung Lim, a clothier who testified about making and selling nearly $500,000 in fashionable attire to Bullock. Most of the attire was paid for with a union American Express credit card.

Eventually, nearly $80,000 was not collected and Mrs. Lim, who had taken out a home equity loan to pay personal costs, finally received a $15,000 union check dated July 2, 2002, signed by Bullock and Mr. Baxter, Mrs. Lim testified.

Yesterday, defense attorneys called two prosecution witnesses, who further described financial papers found while searching the homes belonging to Mrs. Hemphill and her daughter and son-in-law, Cheryl and Michael Martin.

The Martins have pleaded guilty to involvement and are awaiting sentencing.

Michael Martin established Expressions Unlimited, which accepted and made payments for the union and American Express as a means of hiding expenditures and receipts of the defendants’ personal expenditures.

Mark Wheeler, supervisor of investigations for the U.S. Department of Labor, said the defendants and other witnesses cooperated when interviewed.

His testimony to Mrs. Hemphill’s attorney, Deborah St. Jean, flip-flopped when he was cross-examined by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannie Rhee.

Mr. Wheeler told Ms. St. Jean that Michael Martin made no reference in two paragraphs of the interview document to his mother-in-law. The first paragraph referred to establishing Expressions Unlimited for Bullock “because she had been so generous.”

Ms. Rhee’s questions revealed that in a previous paragraph, Michael Martin said Mrs. Hemphill suggested that he open an Expressions Unlimited account.

In the second paragraph, Michael Martin said: “I never gave cash to Mrs. Hemphill.” But Mr. Wheeler told Ms. Rhee that Michael Martin admitted giving Expressions Unlimited checks to her.

Numerous documents were admitted as evidence yesterday. So far, 732 exhibits, including charts and about 300 pages of documents, have been accepted as evidence in the trial.

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