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2nd DeKalb cop indicted; lawyers squabble over witness, V. Jones
By JIM WALLS
A second DeKalb police officer has been charged with bribery, delaying yet again the trial of a co-defendant who was once the county’s deputy chief of police.
Former DeKalb police Lt. Willie Daren Durrett was arraigned today on charges that he took three bribes from small business owner Amin Budhwani in 2007 and 2008. Durrett resigned from the force last week, a day before a federal grand jury indicted him.
The indictment also lodged new charges against former deputy chief Donald Frank, a co-defendant who is now accused of taking five bribes from Budhwani. Frank’s attorneys last week won a delay in his trial, which had originally been scheduled for last November and had been reset to begin next week.
Court records show attorneys have been squabbling over the credibility of Budhwani, the chief witness against both men, who pleaded guilty last June to bribing Frank.
Federal prosecutors want to suppress defense inquiries into an investigation of possible insurance fraud involving a June 2008 burglary at Budhwani’s house. Frank’s attorneys contend that evidence could speak to Budhwani’s credibility, but the feds say it’s not relevant and could be prejudicial:
“…no finding of fraud was ever made, no criminal case was brought against Budhwani by DeKalb, and Travelers Insurance ultimately paid on the insurance claim. Additionally, there is no alleged involvement of defendant Frank in any of these matters.”
Budhwani claimed a $65,000 loss in the burglary, including $10,000 for the theft of an outdoor water fountain. In a motion filed in January, defense attorneys said DeKalb police found the fountain was not stolen and that Budhwani had told a landscaper to remove it so he could file a claim on it:
“Budhwani had attempted to commit insurance fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud through his false insurance claim. These were potential charges that could have been brought against Budhwani. The fact that Budhwani, by virtue of his agreement with the Government, is free of possible prosecution for those offenses is a matter directly relating to his credibility and is a proper subject for cross examination during the trial.”
Frank’s attorneys have also asked a federal judge to forbid mention at trial of his former boss, onetime DeKalb Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones, as possibly prejudicial:
“Mr. Vernon Jones, a well-known public official, has a reputation that causes some people to immediately think of corruption in DeKalb County government. … there is potential prejudice to Defendant Frank that somehow Mr. Vernon Jones controlled Defendant Frank’s position as Deputy Chief of Police.”
Jones served a controversial eight years as DeKalb’s top administrator but was never charged with criminal misconduct. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year and for the U.S. Senate in 2008.
Frank served at one time on Jones’ security detail. Later, he became deputy to Jones’ hand-picked police chief, Terrell Bolton, and was reportedly involved in moving two seized luxury cars that Bolton had set aside for his personal use.