HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Lawyers for a Hattiesburg pastor accused of skimming federally-funded housing money for his church wrapped up their defense Saturday, and the case will soon head to a jury for its decision.
WDAM-TV reports (http://bit.ly/2cfng8i ) that 10 witnesses testified for the defense in the trial of the Rev. Kenneth Fairley before testimony ended Saturday afternoon.
The trial will pick back up Monday morning, when closing arguments will begin and jurors will be given instructions for their deliberations.
Fairley, a political ally of Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, faces conspiracy and theft charges involving federal housing money received in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants administered by the City of Hattiesburg.
The leader of Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Fairley denies guilt. His defense attorneys say he may have been bad at bookkeeping but he had no criminal intent.
DuPree testified Saturday as a character witness for Fairley, saying they’ve known each other since the seventh grade. The mayor said he was as close to the man “as you can be without being blood.” DuPree said he was never told of accusations that Fairley was stealing until the indictment was released.
The Hattiesburg American reports (http://hatne.ws/2cOI623 ) that defense witnesses on Friday testified to the amounts of receipts and expenditures related to two Hattiesburg homes rehabilitated by Pine Belt Community Services, of which Fairley is director.
Brent McDaniel, a forensic accountant with Price Waterhouse Cooper, said on top of the $38,000 in receipts, Pine Belt Community Services showed it had invested another $97,000 in salaries, insurance and other expenses during the time of the housing rehabilitation, essentially spending more than it took in.
Nick Autorina, a private consultant and HUD program manager in Atlanta, said he did not see anything unusual in Pine Belt Community Services’ record keeping.
“Record keeping is very challenging,” Autorina said. “However, whatever was provided to the city was acceptable to HUD.”
Two people involved in the rehabilitation projects testified that volunteers and employees did much of the labor, and at one point, former Hattiesburg Ward 4 Councilman Dave Ware went on one of the periodic home inspections
“Dave Ware said he was satisfied,” project manager Gabriel Bobbett said.