Update: At around 5 p.m., jurors sent a note to Judge James F.X. Doyle stating that they are deadlocked on one of the four felony charges filed against Mr. Guldi. Jurors have repeatedly asked the court to have the definition of one of the charges—criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree—read over to them. Judge Doyle also said that jurors would continue to deliberate for at least another half an hour.
Update: At approximately 3 p.m., the jury sent a note to the judge asking if Mr. Guldi had to physically touch the check to be guilty of criminal possession of a forged instrument. The judge responded by reading the statute again.
Juror deliberations in the criminal trial of former Suffolk County Legislator George O. Guldi continued on Wednesday in Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverhead, after jurors failed to reach a verdict following five hours of discussions behind closed doors on Tuesday.
Jurors resumed their discussions at around 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, asking to be reread the testimony provided by one witness—a forensic auditor with the Suffolk County district attorney’s office—before breaking for lunch a few minutes after 1 p.m. They were scheduled to resume deliberations at 2:15 p.m.
Judge James F.X. Doyle ordered the jurors to recess for the night at 5:10 p.m. on Tuesday. Before deliberations began at around 11 a.m. that day, Judge Doyle spent more than an hour reading the charges faced by Mr. Guldi, who is defending himself against felony insurance fraud and other counts stemming from a fire that destroyed his Westhampton Beach home more than two years ago.
“It’s been five weeks’ worth of trial,” said special counsel Chris Brocato, an attorney assigned to help guide Mr. Guldi since he is defending himself. “It’s hard to put the pieces together in a couple of hours. I wouldn’t be surprised if they take the whole day tomorrow,” he said on Tuesday afternoon.
Between 3:30 and 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday, jurors asked the court to go over the testimony provided by two witnesses, including statements made by Dustin Dente. Mr. Dente, who testified on February 8, was arrested with Mr. Guldi in a separate mortgage fraud case that is scheduled to begin later this year.
Closing arguments wrapped up on Monday afternoon. In his closing statements, Mr. Guldi once again denied forging the signature of his mortgage lender, Countrywide Home Loans, on the back of a $853,000 insurance check that was supposed to be used to rebuild his Griffing Avenue home.
The attorney is facing insurance fraud in the third degree, grand larceny in the second degree, criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree, and forgery in the second degree, all felonies. The grand larceny count, which is the top charge in the indictment, is punishable by a prison term of five to 15 years.
Prosecutors are arguing that if the house—which was gutted by a fire on November 30, 2008—was not rebuilt, Countrywide Home Loans, a division of Bank of America, would have applied the insurance money to its outstanding $1.4 million mortgage. As of September 2009, the house was still boarded up and, according to prosecutors, only $163,000 was left in the bank account that the check was deposited into. The account has since been frozen.
Just a month before he was arrested in September 2009 on the insurance fraud charges, Mr. Guldi was indicted for his role in what prosecutors described as an $82 million mortgage fraud scheme targeting the East End. The new charges are not related to his earlier indictment; the trial in the mortgage fraud case is still to come.
On Monday afternoon, Mr. Guldi launched his 65-minute closing argument with a “Happy Valentine’s Day” greeting to the jury, and then attempted to convince the jurors of several holes in the prosecution’s evidence, including his being out of town on a ski trip in Vermont when the check in question was deposited into his Chase bank account in New York City.
“I feel sorry and I apologize to you, as jurors, that you’ve had to take this amount of time out of your lives, and mine, to listen to this kind of crap as evidence,” said Mr. Guldi, referring to the prosecution’s arguments and noting that the trial has reached the month mark.
Assistant District Attorney Thalia Stavrides appeared unaffected by Mr. Guldi’s strong closing remarks and addressed the jury for 45 minutes, in the end pointing to the most telling piece of evidence, she said: a photocopy of the check in question, endorsed by both Mr. Guldi and Countrywide Home Loans, which she said was forged by the defendant. She agreed with Mr. Guldi and said that, in fact, he did not deposit the check himself—which Mr. Guldi has stated all along—but then asserted that it was deposited by Donald MacPherson, a part-time Westhampton Beach resident who is also charged in the mortgage fraud case. Several of Mr. MacPherson’s Chase withdrawal slips show that in the past, on his own accounts, he had used the same teller that handled the insurance check and placed it into Mr. Guldi’s account, according to Ms. Stavrides.