Opening statements heard in Mathis trial - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Opening statements heard in Mathis trial

June 7, 2005

Albany-- Day two of Henry Mathis's federal trial began with the selection of jury, and ended with the questioning of Joe McDonald, the man who initially accused Mathis of extortion.

Federal Prosecutors told jurors they would prove Mathis told McDonald, as well as Dora Wilson and James Hadley, that if they didn't give him money, he would hurt their businesses.

But Mathis' attorney says McDonald was hired by one of Mathis's political enemy to frame him, and Wilson is just trying to get a lighter prison sentence.

Federal prosecutor Allen Dasher laid out, in detail, the government's case against Mathis. Mathis is charged with extorting $3,432 from three business people since 2003. Some of that money came from the GBI investigators probing the extortion allegations.

Mathis' attorney, Rick Collum, called plaintiff Joe McDonald a liar, hired by a political enemy to frame Mathis. And Collum said Dora Wilson and her long time boyfriend James Hadley want to get Wilson a reduced sentence in another criminal case.

It appears that former fellow commissioner David Williams turned in Mathis.

Joe McDonald testified the day after he told Williams about Mathis' alleged extortion attempt, the GBI contacted McDonald. The government painted a scheme in which Mathis was covering his trail by demanding payments in cash, not checks, and that Mathis claimed some of the money was for fellow commissioner Jon Howard's campaign.

Collum says he'll prove McDonald voluntarily gave Mathis the money after Mathis helped him work out some problems with the Veterans Administration about McDonald's Social Security checks. "I can't comment on the evidence outside of court. Obviously you heard the opening statements, and that will be supported during the trial," Collum said.

Seven white women, four black women, three white men, will decide the fate of the suspended Albany city commissioner. "I try to rise above race and the conflicts that may existed there-in. I believe the people on the jury will listen to the facts and make a decision on the facts," Collum said.

It will likely be the end of the week before jurors make that decision. The trial resumes Wednesday morning at 8:00.

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