Former Union County Supervisor Donald Betenbaugh, former sheriff Howard Wells, former tax assessor Willie Randall Jr. and Union County residents Lapriest Darnell Beacham and Willard Dee Farr along with their attorneys appeared before U.S. District Judge Henry Floyd for a pretrial hearing on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Spartanburg.
All — if any — unresolved motions in the federal cases against the five men will be heard by Floyd no later than Jan. 25, 2010. Jurors will be selected Feb. 3 and proceedings will begin afterward.
Any changes of pleas must be heard no later than Feb. 2.
Wells’ attorney Albert Smith and Betenbaugh’s attorney Gregory Harris both told Floyd they needed additional time to review the government’s evidence.
Harris said he has 4,000 pages of government evidence to go through and Smith told Floyd he only just recently received the government’s evidence and needs additional time for review.
Attorney Nancy Wicker with the U.S. Attorney’s Office who is prosecuting the Wells case told Floyd the discovery process is 95 percent complete. The other prosecuting attorneys from the U.S. Attorney's Office are John Rowell, on the Beacham and Farr cases, and Mark Moore, who is prosecuting the Betenbaugh and Randall cases.
The balance of the government’s documents are expected to be turned over to defense attorneys either by the end of this week or early next week.
Harris also asked the 8:30 p.m. curfew on his client be lifted and Floyd obliged.
Floyd asked prosecutors Thursday how long they expected the trial to last. The prosecuting team said Betenbaugh’s case, being the most complex, could possibly last at least 4-5 days. As for the others, they expect them to take no more than 1-3 days.
Betenbaugh and Randall were named in a 40-count federal indictment charging both in the first 15 counts with conspiracy, extortion, soliciting and accepting bribes, money laundering, structuring financial transactions to evade federal reporting requirements and knowingly allowing the Assessor’s Office to be used as a “stash house” for the storage and distribution of cocaine and hydrocodone.
As an elected official, Betenbaugh is also charged in 25 additional counts with witness tampering, lying to federal agents, misprision of a felony, obstruction of justice and illegally distributing Lorazepam, a schedule IV controlled substance.
If convicted on all counts, Betenbaugh faces a maximum possible sentence of 618 years in federal prison and a fine of $13 million dollars. Randall faces a maximum possible sentence of 190 years in federal prison and a fine of $5.25 million dollars.
Randall, who served as tax assessor for 15 years until July of this year, was also named in a separate indictment with Beacham. Both men are charged with conspiracy since 2007 to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and 50 grams or more of a mixture containing methamphetamine. Beacham is also charged with three additional counts for distributing cocaine last February.
If convicted on this separate indictment, Randall faces an additional maximum possible sentence of 40 years in federal prison with a mandatory minimum of five years and a fine of $2 million. Beacham faces a maximum possible sentence of 100 years in federal prison and a fine of $8 million.
Wells, who served as sheriff of Union County for 16 years before being defeated for reelection in 2008, was named in a three-count indictment charging him with lying to federal investigators and witness tampering.
The indictment is the result of an investigation into sizable loans allegedly made by Wells to an individual resulting in significant interest income to Wells. The indictment charges that in March 2009, Wells “made false statements to federal law enforcement agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning his involvement in concealing his receipt of taxable interest income and the existence of documents acknowledging the same.”
The indictment also charges that in April 2009 Wells engaged in witness tampering by corruptly persuading an individual identified in the indictment as “J.G.” to mislead federal investigators and to inducing J.G. to “alter, destroy, mutilate and conceal an object with intent to impair the object’s integrity and availability for use in an official proceeding.”
If convicted on all counts, Wells faces a maximum possible sentence of 45 years in federal prison and a $750,000 fine.
Farr is charged in a three-count indictment with conspiracy to commit extortion, aiding and abetting former City of Union Mayor E. Bruce Morgan and former City of Union Building and Zoning director Jeffrey Lawson to extort money from contractors seeking to do business with the City of Union and lying to federal investigators. Morgan and Lawson have already pled guilty and were sentenced to federal prison earlier this year.
If convicted on all counts, Farr faces a maximum possible sentence of 45 years in federal prison and a fine of $750,000.