ATHENS — The jury won’t hear from former Georgia football coach Jim Donnan in his federal trial on fraud charges.
“I have decided not to testify, your honor,” Donnan told U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal on Tuesday.
Donnan’s statement came after the judge dismissed jurors for the day, informing them they are to return Wednesday to hear one final defense witness and both sides’ closing arguments. The jury is expected to begin deliberations Wednesday afternoon.
Ed Tolley, one of Donnan’s attorneys, said he advised his client that he had the right to remain silent and that the jury would be instructed not to hold that against him.
“I have explained to him the pros and cons of testifying, which he has certainly observed over the last seven or eight days,” Tolley said.
Donnan is facing 41 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and security fraud, all related to an alleged scheme in which investors lost almost $23 million in a West Virginia-based company called Global Liquidation Center (GLC). The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011, as did Donnan.
According to prosecutors, investors recruited by Donnan were promised large rates of return — typically 30 to 70 percent — from GLC on money that purportedly was to be used to purchase closeout merchandise for re-sale at substantial profits to pre-determined buyers. But the prosecutors contend that relatively little merchandise was actually sold and that GLC operated as a Ponzi scheme in which early investors were paid from the contributions of later investors.
A central theme of the case is how much Donnan, 69, knew about GLC’s operations and when he knew it.
Donnan’s lawyers say he believed GLC was a viable business and a great investment that he wanted to share with friends and family members. Some of the people who lost money have said they don’t believe Donnan deliberately deceived them.
GLC was founded by Greg Crabtree, a West Virginia man who originally was indicted along with Donnan. Crabtree decided not to go to trial, agreeing to a negotiated guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud in the sale of security. He faces up to five years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced next month in Athens.
The prosecution rested its case against Donnan late Tuesday morning, and the defense called three witnesses in the afternoon – an Athens businessman who is an importer of furniture and building products; Donnan’s bankruptcy attorney; and Donnan’s son, Todd Donnan.
Todd Donnan, also a GLC investor, testified that he had no concerns about GLC’s viability until August 2010, when he didn’t receive a payment he was due.
Asked why he had no concerns previously, the younger Donnan replied: “I know that my dad loves me and my children more than anything in the world, and he would never put us in harm’s way.”