Judge Stranded

As Symington finishes his grueling cross-examination, judge tarries with jury instructions

But Schindler showed the jury the "errors" persisted as Symington's net worth fluctuated on subsequent versions of his financial statement.

Schindler moved to the most bewildering and amusing portion of his cross-examination--how Symington computed his personal share of the real estate projects his partnerships developed.

Putting on his best imitation of TV detective Columbo, Schindler led Symington through a line of questioning that caused spectators to laugh at Symington's responses.

Using an enlarged real estate schedule from one of Symington's financial statements as a prop, Schindler asked Symington to explain how the market value of a project was related to his personal equity share. Rather than simply subtracting the loan balance from the market value of a project and multiplying the difference by his percentage share, Symington opted for the crystal ball.

Schindler: "I want to make sure I understand you then, Mr. Symington. What you're telling us is that the Symington-share column has nothing to do with the market-value column?"

Symington: "Well, no. It's not that it doesn't have anything to do with it. The market-value column is a value that I had on my statement that I carried over year to year. And I never updated it. The Symington-share column is what I hoped to get out of the project at the end when we wrapped it up and hopefully in a day when, you know, we were doing a lot better with these projects. So there's a--there's a future value element in the Symington share."

(Symington's logic would allow homeowners to unrealistically estimate equity by valuing their houses at prices they "hopefully" will sell for in the future, then subtracting the mortgage balance.)

Schindler continued to attack testimony Symington gave during direct examination, when the governor told the jury he did not list $900,000 in loans from his mother and $100,000 from a business associate on his financial statements because both had told him he need not worry about repayment.

Schindler confronted Symington with sworn testimony he gave federal prosecutors in February 1993 when the governor said that the loans were not on his financial statements because of an "oversight."

The contradictions rattled Symington.
"I didn't go into the 1993 interview with any preparation, so I was guessing at that point," Symington testified.

Seizing the opening, Schindler bore down.
"Now, you just testified, Mr. Symington, you weren't prepared for this [1993] interview?"

"What I was saying was I certainly, in preparation for that interview, I really--I mean I did very minimal preparation, hadn't really--whoops, I spilled my water all over the place here. And my memory wasn't really--probably wasn't all that fresh . . ."

Symington's clumsy response undermined his pat excuse of memory failure when confronted with inconsistencies. Symington was now claiming his memory was better in 1997 than it had been in 1993.

Schindler finally presented evidence that most closely resembles a smoking gun, returning to Symington's reliance on multiple financial statements. Just weeks after Symington won the Republican gubernatorial primary in September 1990, First Interstate Bank began pressuring Symington to provide a financial statement with "fair market values" for his real estate projects.

Schindler presented Symington with a draft financial statement on which Symington slashed his values on his real estate schedule and came up with a net worth of $1.6 million, down sharply from his previously reported net worth of $11.9 million.

But the $1.9 million net worth statement was never sent to a bank. Instead, Schindler charged that Symington went back, erased some of the lower real estate values and raised them back to previous levels to boost his net worth above $4.6 million.

In a dramatic flourish, Schindler distributed the real estate schedule containing erased but still visible figures, asking jurors to examine the erasures and faint numbers.

Symington nervously sat on the stand for several minutes as the jury examined the document. Court recessed for the day, leaving the jury to contemplate the evidence.

Schindler opened his final day of cross-examination by returning to the worksheet erasures. Symington testified that he revised upward the values of two buildings at the Camelback Esplanade to boost his net worth provided to First Interstate to above $4.6 million.

"I'm not sure what I was doing in terms of the numbers with the Esplanade, but obviously I was doing some tinkering," Symington testified.

At first, Symington claimed the revised numbers reflected fair-market values to conform with a certification letter he had provided to First Interstate Bank.

But Schindler pointed out that Symington's real estate values for the Esplanade did not reflect that Symington's interest had been sharply diluted and were not fair market values.

Cornered, Symington admitted that the Esplanade values were what he "believed" he would "get out of the project" rather than fair market value.

Schindler then suggested a motivation for the changes in Symington's valuations of the Esplanade buildings: The November 1990 general election was weeks away and two lenders, Valley National Bank and DKB, still were requiring Symington to maintain a $4 million net worth.

The prosecutor charged that Symington revised the Esplanade numbers upward to show a net worth exceeding $4 million to keep Valley National and DKB from declaring him in default prior to the election.

"Well, I wouldn't agree with that," Symington testified.
Schindler shifted to a November 1991 letter Symington sent to CitiCorp in which the governor stated he didn't have a December 31, 1990, financial statement when in fact he had prepared two, one with a net worth of $5.4 million and the other with a net worth of negative $4 million.

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