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As Doug Evans' fraud trial nears, 100 people will be called as potential jurors

Doug Evans' fraud trial needs jury pool of 100
Posted at 3:49 PM, Oct 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-19 15:49:39-04

CINCINNATI - As many as 100 potential jurors will be summoned to U.S. District Court in the coming weeks for the criminal trial of well-known Newtown landscaping company owner Doug Evans.

Evans faces six criminal charges for allegedly using a shell company to win minority and small business contracts from the city of Cincinnati and the state to demolish houses, public schools and other projects. He faces up to 103 years in prison if convicted.

At a court hearing on Friday, attorneys discussed the size of a jury pool that would be needed for the lengthy trial, which is set to begin on Nov. 14.

“Whatever we did in the Daniels case,” said Evans’ attorney, Ben Dusing.

In 2013, Dusing successfully defended former Kenwood Towne Place developer Matt Daniels on 23 counts of fraud related to the failed development. The jury found Daniels not guilty on all charges.

Presiding over the Daniels case was U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett - the same judge who is overseeing the Evans case.

As the Evans trial nears, attorneys argued on Friday about what evidence should be limited from jurors.

Dusing does not want jurors to hear about the size and scope of Evans’ wealth. Evans, who started his landscaping company by hauling mulch as a teenager, is now Newtown’s largest property owner with a multi-million dollar real estate portfolio.

Federal prosecutors said they would not bring up evidence of his wealth at trial.

But jurors will likely hear about how employees at Evans Landscaping and Ergon Site Construction allegedly altered photos of work sites in order to defraud the city.

Prosecutors allege that Evans and an IT employee, Korey Jordan, created a new company, Ergon, in 2008 to act as a front for Evans to win minority and small business contracts. The city awarded Ergon 140 demolition contracts worth nearly $2 million.

Jordan agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. As part of his plea agreement, he will testify at trial. Three other Evans Landscaping employees also signed plea agreements admitting their guilt and will testify at trial.

Dusing wants to exclude from trial any evidence of altered photos of government jobs.

But prosecutors argued that those photos are key evidence in the case because Evans’ vehicles were allegedly cropped out of job site photos where Ergon was supposed to be performing the work as a minority contractor.

Barrett said he would decide the issue as it arises during trial, but added the photo evidence “would probably come in.”

“It would make no sense to crop or Photoshop … because Evans was a disclosed subcontractor, so there was nothing to hide,” Dusing said.

Whatever jurors believe about the true relationship between Jordan and Evans may determine Evans' fate at trial. Evans has insisted he was just trying to help Jordan start his own minority-owned business by giving him startup money, guaranteeing a line of credit and teaching him the business.

Evans will go to trial with Jim Bailey, vice president of operations at Evans Landscaping. Both men face the same charges: two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud and one count of misprision of a felony. The company, Evans Landscaping, faces five charges and a potential $1.25 million in fines.

In the coming weeks, Barrett will make a ruling on one outstanding motion in the case.

Defense attorneys want Barrett to exclude evidence FBI agents collected during their raids of Evans Landscaping, and four search warrants – including more than two million pages of documents.

Dusing argued the search warrants are flawed -- and illegal -- because they fail to entirely describe the places to be searched and the things to be seized. Particularly flagrant, Dusing said, is a 2017 search warrant allowing the FBI to see all of Evans’ emails back to the 1990s -- “the entire contents of his inbox, if you will.”

Jurors in the case will not hear evidence that Evans may not have paid employees prevailing wage on government contracts, or that he underpaid or partially paid them.

“That is not in the indictment and it has nothing to do with this,” Dusing said on Friday.

The government contracts will be used as evidence at trial. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Glatfelter said she would not make a point of highlighting any pay discrepancies to the jury.