Defense attorneys told jurors Thursday that former DeKalb County school district chief operating officer Pat Reid and her ex-husband, architect Tony Pope, will testify about the decisions they made that are at the core of racketeering and theft charges against them.
Also taking the stand on the other side will be former School Superintendent Crawford Lewis. He hired Reid and initially was charged along with Reid and Pope, but has cut a plea deal and is expected to be a key witness for the prosecution.
It will be up to the jurors to decide whose version of events leading up to the case they believe.
Three-and-a-half years after Reid and Pope were first indicted, prosecutors Thursday gave jurors an outline of the case against them. Reid was in charge of school district construction, and Pope’s firm won school system contracts worth millions of dollars.
“The evidence in this case will show it’s about marriage, manipulation and money,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Kellie Hill told jurors in her opening statement.
“These two defendants, along with others, manipulated the DeKalb School District and took money they were not entitled to. While (Reid and Pope) were married, they were partners. They were partners in life and they were partners in business. … They shared their money.”
Reid was vice president of Pope’s company when she was hired in 2005; at that time the firm had several contracts with the DeKalb County School District, including one at Columbia High School.
Reid and Pope are charged with racketeering and theft by taking concerning construction projects funded by a local option sales tax at Columbia High and McNair Cluster Elementary School.
Reid could get as much as 65 years in prison if convicted of all charges and Pope could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Initially, Lewis was facing the same charges as Reid and 65 years in prison as well. But three weeks ago he pleaded guilty to obstruction, a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of 12 months in jail, for trying to interfere with the District Attorney’s Office investigation. Under the plea agreement, Lewis must testify.
Witnesses testified Thursday that there were many discussions about the fact that one of the conditions of Reid taking the job of chief operating officer was that Pope could not get any new contracts but could finish the work already started.
“We were not asking him to stop doing the work he had already begun,” said one of those witnesses, Rick Cost, who was the chief financial officer for DeKalb schools when Reid was hired. “I have no doubt Mr. Pope understood those parameters.”
Deborah Loeb, who was Lewis’ chief of staff, said Reid and Pope expressed concern about how it would affect his business if she took the position with the district, but eventually they decided to accept the terms.
The school board and Lewis were “thrilled” Reid took the job because she immediately identified problems and fixed them, Loeb testified.
Lewis trusted Reid’s advice to the extent that he would sign documents without reading them, said Loeb, who retired in 2007. “He was just signing where it was tabbed.”
Defense attorneys said Thursday that the explanations for what happened will convince the 12 jurors and four alternates that there was no criminal enterprise.
“There was no conspiracy between Pat Reid and Tony Pope,” John Petrey, Pope’s lawyer, said in his opening statement. “You are going to hear from Tony Pope himself. He will look you in the eye. He will testify about what he did in this case, what he didn’t do. And he will be cross-examined.”
Reid’s attorney, Tony Axam, made the same promise.
“She will testify and explain why she did what she did,” Axam said. “She will share she had no agreement with her husband. They did not share money. They did not have a joint (banking) account. … We will take you inside the marriage.”