Feds Breathe Sigh of Relief;
Jury Convicts on 1 Charge of 8
by Steve Miller
copyright © 1996, Electric Nevada
|It was Thursday morning, minutes after Jerry Keenan had been found guilty by a U.S. District Court jury of charges of lying to agents of the FBI and ATF who'd been investigating last December's Reno IRS bomb attempt.|
| The jury was gone, the
courtroom cleared out, and Keenan, his wife and friends
were standing out in the fifth-floor hall of the Reno
Federal Building. They were listening to defense attorney
Ben Walker explain the different sentences the felony
conviction might bring the 53-year-old businessman.
It was not so bad, really, considering everything, said Walker, because the jury had found Keenan not guilty on the government's most serious charge, that of perjury before the federal grand jury.
And if Keenan actually had to go to jail, it probably wouldn't be for long, he said, adding that the eventual sentence, after the just-scheduled August 9 pre-sentence hearing, might turn out to be only be a fine or even just probation.
But the diabetic owner of Gardnerville-Minden's Green Valley Nursery Center was dejected, and -- as trial watchers had learned was his deep-seated habit -- just blurted out what was foremost in his mind. He "could take some extra insulin and clear it all up," he said.
At that both his attractive fifty-ish red-headed wife, Joanne, and attorney Walker turned again to the brighter side of the result.
"You're self-employed, so you've still got your business, you've still got your friends and they know what happened," said Walker. "It shouldn't affect your business."
"It already has," said Keenan.
But his wife Joanne -- either greatly relieved that the more serious federal charges had been rejected by the jury, or simply to cheer up her husband, or both -- was emphatically upbeat.
When the defense attorney said that what might end up bothering Keenan most was that, as a convicted felon, the lifelong hunter and fisherman might not be able to own a firearm, Mrs. Keenan pointed out to her husband that he hadn't gone hunting in five years anyway.
"You'll have to take up bridge," she joked.
If some on the defense side felt Keenan had dodged a bigger legal bullet than he took, members of the Nevada office of the U.S. Attorney's had even more reason to be relieved.
In many ways the trial could easily have turned out a high-profile public relations disaster for the federal government. Instead, the prosecution got a conviction on one subparagraph out of the eight listed under the indictment's two counts.
The government had charged Jerry Keenan with lying to federal agents in three instances and with lying to a federal grand jury in five instances.
But even before the jury was given the case for deliberation, federal Judge Howard McKibben had agreed with the defense that four of the eight particulars should be stricken from the indictment because the government had presented no evidence to substantiate the charges.
The remaining charges at that point were two items under the first count -- lying to a federal officer in the pursuit of his duty -- and two items under the second count, lying to a grand jury.
But when McKibben provided his instructions to the jurors, the absence of several of the original charges confused them. The jury sent a letter back to the judge, asking if the remaining single statement in count 2 was the only statement they were to consider. And the judge's response, in effect, was yes.
When the jury did settle down to deliberate on the remaining four particulars, they quickly found Keenan not guilty on three of them.
Most probably the remaining question at that point, Walker told Electric Nevada, was whether Keenan had tried to deceive investigators when he told them that the "Crazy Joe" they were seeking had come to his nursery only once that he knew of.
Walker based that inference on the similarity the other charge under the first count had to the remaining charge under the second count. If jurors had felt Keenan was guilty on the other first-count charge, said Walker, they would have logically also found him guilty on the similar charge under the second count. And since they didn't, what remained was the question having to do with the number of Bailie visits.
The question had first been asked on the night of December 19, 1995, FBI agent William Jonkey told the court. Jonkey and federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Jim Doreen had telephoned the Keenan household shortly before midnight and told Mrs. Keenan they would be arriving shortly. Mrs. Keenan then woke her husband, who goes to bed at 8 p.m., in order to rise at 4:30 a.m. and getting to the nursery an hour later. At the time he had been asleep about four hours.
When the agents arrived, according to Jonkey, the Keenans served them coffee, and the sleepy and tired Keenan answered their questions, which had to do with a "Joe Grosso" or a "Crazy Joe" -- names they had from a previous interview. While the "Joe
Grosso" line of inquiry would
eventually turn out to be a false lead, the "Crazy
Joe" line allegedly was not, and Keenan did give the
agents the names of three people who knew a good deal
more about the "Crazy Joe" character than did
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