Rich Macke: From inside the Stockman trial

Published 9:31 am Sunday, April 22, 2018

One never knows when they will cross paths with a corrupt political figure. Even when you do, you may not know at the time that they were. But from my viewpoint as a witness for the federal government, former Texas Congressman Steve Stockman was just that — corrupt.

After waiting a little more than four hours, tucked away from absolutely anyone in a small office that seemed more like a broom closet at the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Houston, I was finally called to the stand.

I had been informed that my part of the prosecution’s case was going to be very short, “maybe an hour tops” Department of Justice trial attorney Robert Heberle explained to me. Heck, it was much shorter, only a half -hour and I was done.

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But walking into the courtroom, it was impressive just how prepared the prosecution was. Over two weeks of prosecution witnesses and mine was a half-hour? This guy was done.

As I sit here writing this, I simply don’t understand why former Stockman, our former congressman, didn’t take a plea deal prior to the trial. Could it have been arrogance, wishful thinking or just plain old stupidity? Maybe all the above, I guess, but we will never know.

Steve Stockman now sits behind bars having been found guilty of 23 of the 24 counts he had been charged with. Charges ranging from mail and wire fraud, money laundering and violations of federal election law were at the core

Back in November 2013 and again in February 2014, while Stockman was vying for re-election in March 2014, I was contacted by then Stockman aide Jason Posey to handle the printing of more than a half-million copies of a political tabloid publication. Ultimately this publication was mailed to citizens across Texas’ 36th District.

Little did I know then, Stockman had received more than $1.25 million from two mega-donors for his campaign expenses. Money was apparently then deposited into fictitious 501c3 accounts. With one of those accounts his campaign paid The Port Arthur News $30,000 for the printing of the political publication. The business name on the cashier’s check was “Egyptian American Friendship Society.”

About a year later, the feds came calling. They subpoenaed anything and everything related to the printed publications. So we submitted cancelled checks, print logs, print quotes, emails between myself and Jason Posey, and billing information.

Not long after, I was called to Houston to testify in front of the grand jury. Then on March 27 I testified against the former congressman at the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Houston.

As I walked in to the courtroom, the judge stopped me just at the end of the jury box, the jury walked in, and I was announced as the next witness. I took my place on the stand after being sworn in, and there, sitting at the table to the right with his legal team was the former congressman.

As this was my first, and hopefully only, time being a part of a legal case of this magnitude, I was a little overwhelmed.

Heberle had me walk through the email chain between Jason Posey and myself, which was shared on a large video screen for all in the courtroom to see. We then discussed the checks, how we received the checks and from whom we received them.

When it came time for redirect from the defendant’s legal team, they had no questions for me and I was excused.

Later I found out that Posey made a plea deal and became the main witness against Stockman. He took the stand mere days after I did.

Apparently Posey feared that he would be made out to be the fall guy since all communications went through him. But on the stand he stated, “We all knew what we were doing was wrong.” He also said, “Stockman guaranteed he would take care of him if things got bad.”

In a basketball game, this would be a slam-dunk.

Turning to Stockman’s defense, his entire case revolved around one topic. His donors did not care how he spent the money as long as some of it went to his campaign.

Anyone with common sense would know if that were the case, why not put it into your main account instead of the fictitious 501c3? Again, a head scratcher.

The jury, after receiving instructions from the judge, only took 16 hours to convict Stockman for his “White Collar Crime Spree,” which is what the prosecutor called it. He was immediately remanded into custody.

His attorneys state they will file an appeal, and we may be doing this all over again. But if the initial conviction sticks, Stockman could sit in prison for a long time.

Last week, while on vacation to attend my daughter’s wedding, my contacts at the FBI called, letting me know of the verdict. I asked, why could he not see what he was up against and that a plea deal would benefit him? The FBI special agent stated, “I don’t know, but you never know what’s going on in someone else’s mind.”

Ain’t that the truth!

Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News.