A federal jury found a former probation officer guilty of falsifying documents to obstruct a federal investigation on Monday, but the federal judge who heard the case could still overturn the verdict and acquit Kelli Jo Brock.
Brock claimed in 2009 that a masked intruder broke into her home and shot her in the leg during a struggle. She claimed to have positively identified the man, who was arrested on the day of the alleged burglary and attack and held for eight months before a Faulkner County jury acquitted him of all state charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anne Gardner and Patricia Harris prosecuted the case against Brock, who was tried under the name Kelli Jo Craig. Gardner confirmed on Wednesday that one of the written statement’s alleged falsehoods was Brock’s written claim that she was "100 percent sure" it was Robert Fredrickson who attacked and shot her in her home.
"The prosecution’s theory was that Robert Fredrickson was never at her home that night and that she made up that story for whatever motive she had," Gardner said.
A federal jury agreed with this theory, at least in part, and on Monday returned a verdict of guilty against Brock for one of the two violations of U.S. Code she was charged with.
The jury found Brock not guilty on Monday of making false statements to FBI investigators relating to the circumstances of the alleged shooting in violation of 18 USC § 1001, which applies to knowingly false written or nonwritten statements made to certain federal officials. According to the federal indictment, Brock "demonstrated for federal agents how she grabbed the gun of her assailant (a Glock 23 semi-automatic handgun), using both hands, one if front of the other, touching, with her palms down and fingers open as if holding on, and when asked if she was holding on to the gun in this manner tightly, replied ‘of course.’"
Two shots were fired during the incident, one of which injured Brock in the leg. Generally speaking, a semi-automatic handgun in the style of the weapon described cannot fire a second shot unless the weapon’s slide (the top half of the weapon) moves more than an inch to the rear and then returns fully forward. Holding on to the weapon as described by Brock would have interrupted the rearward movement of the slide, the government argued, and so the events described and demonstrated in an interview with FBI could not have happened.
Gardner speculated that the jury found Brock not guilty of making a false non-written statement to federal investigators because the circumstances of any shooting are chaotic and memories of them can be faulty.
Falsifying a written document, however, falls under a different section of United States Code, 18 USC § 1519, which applies to the knowing falsification of any document "with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of ... the United States."
Brock submitted to FBI investigators a lengthy and detailed description of a brutal attack in her home and events leading up to it. This document became "Government Exhibit 1" in the federal trial and claims made in it, including the identity of the claimed attacker, were proven false to the jury beyond reasonable doubt, Gardner said.
A worker with the United States District Court’s Eastern District of Arkansas courthouse in Little Rock said on Tuesday that filings still pending in the case were related to sentencing. Gardner clarified this inaccuracy on Wednesday, saying that the filings relate to a motion by Brock’s attorneys for a "judgment as a matter of law" before the jury was sent to deliberate. The substance of this motion would have been an argument that no reasonable jury could find Brock guilty of the alleged offenses based on the evidence presented at trial and so a finding of "not guilty" should be entered, ending the trial there.
Federal Judge Leon Holmes held the motion in abeyance, "tabling" it until after the jury gave its verdict. Brock’s defense then renewed the motion, essentially asking the judge to set aside the jury’s verdict of "guilty" as unreasonable. Holmes continues to hold the motion in abeyance, Gardner said, and the filings requested by the judge inaccurately reported as relating to sentencing in fact relate to these motions. U.S. attorneys and Brock’s defense attorneys will file briefs for and against overturning the "guilty" verdict by Dec. 2.
Gardner said that holding a motion for judgment as a matter of law in abeyance after a jury verdict of "guilty" happens "in cases with difficult facts."
The case was initially investigated by Federal agents because part of Brock’s claims involve threatening letters sent by U.S. mail that she claimed were written by the alleged attacker. Generally speaking, an alleged scheme involving dishonesty and use of U.S. mail or telecommunications may be investigated and prosecuted by federal agents.
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net.)
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