BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A federal judge in Boise has determined that an FBI agent lied under oath as she testified in the fraud and money laundering trial involving failed real estate company DBSI, hours before she committed suicide.
U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Tuesday said 34-year-old Rebekah E. Morse had sent text messages while testifying even though she denied having done so.
But Winmill, who reviewed transcripts of the text messages Monday, also said the texts had nothing to do with the case.
“It was innocuous banter back and forth with her husband,” he said. “It was not in any way connected with the case.”
The Idaho Statesman reports (https://bit.ly/1gxqNhx) that Winmill asked attorneys to write proposed instructions for the jury concerning Morse’s death and absence from the courtroom. Morse carried out the criminal investigation of the company.
Authorities say she died of a self-inflected gunshot to the head the evening of March 19 or the morning of March 20. Authorities say she left a note, but no details have been released.
On March 18 and 19 she testified in U.S. District Court in Boise in the case involving Boise-area DBSI Inc.
When being questioned by Winmill, according to court records unsealed Monday, Morse denied texting while on the witness stand. She said the phone vibrated and she shut it off “just to ensure that it didn’t distract me or make any noise while it was at my side.”
But she said that process required entering a passcode.
“And there was no texting?” Winmill asked.
“No. No. I just went to shut it off,” Morse said.
“But under oath you are saying that you were not communicating using a text feature?” Winmill asked.
“No,” Morse replied.
Morse’s phone was confiscated and placed in a secured court evidence vault.
Defense attorneys on March 18 sought access to Morse’s written notes, but Winmill ruled that prosecutors didn’t have to share the notes.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Robinson argued Morse sent a message or messages during the time she was on the stand.
“She made a deliberate decision to say she wasn’t texting when she was texting from the witness stand,” Robinson said.
Winmill on Monday questioned each of the 14 jurors to find out if they found out about Morse’s death. Two jurors said they had learned a death had occurred but that they could continue to be impartial jurors.
DBSI President Douglas Swenson, company attorney Mark Ellison, and Jeremy Swenson and David Swenson face a combined 89 criminal counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering. Jeremy Swenson and David Swenson are company secretaries and the sons of Douglas Swenson.
More than 22,000 claims have been filed with the bankruptcy trustee by investors, property owners, vendors and state and local governments seeking to recover more than $102 billion from DBSI’s collapse.
DBSI ran into trouble when the housing crisis began to hit the country. Investors, including former Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Hill of Montana, accused DBSI of fraud in a billion-dollar class action lawsuit.
DBSI at one time managed 280 shopping centers, office buildings and other commercial buildings in Idaho and 33 other states, with the holdings worth $2.7 billion.
DBSI sold fractional shares to groups of investors.
Information from: Idaho Statesman, https://www.idahostatesman.com
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