Young Trial: Prosecutor Attaway Rests With, 'We’re Proud to Represent Tom Green County'
SAN ANGELO, TX — After nearly three weeks of testimony, the jury in John Young’s forgery, theft and money laundering trial begins deliberations Friday morning.
Thursday’s proceedings were mostly defense attorneys and prosecutors battling over the jury charge. Jurors were originally set to be at the Tom Green County Courthouse at 10 a.m., but were told to come back at 11 a.m. Then they were told the court wouldn’t have the charge until after lunch.
At 1:30 p.m. Judge Brock Jones began leading attorneys through the draft of the charge, which is the document instructing jurors how to proceed with deliberations. Right off the bat, defense attorneys objected to parts of the charge. Frank Sellers objected to part of the document saying it was unconstitutionally vague and there was no evidence Young aided Ray Zapata in any way to forge the will.
Judge Jones struck parts of the charge out as they worked through the complex document. Both sides had objections and the judge ruled on those objections.
The jury was finally brought in at 2:29 p.m. and Judge Jones read the charge to jurors. It took about half an hour.
Closing arguments began shortly after 3 p.m. According to the judge, defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed to 70 minutes each with the prosecution beginning, followed by the defense and rebuttal from prosecutors.
Jonathan White began the closing argument for the state. White told jurors, “Nothing in that charge violates your common sense.” He proceeded to present the state’s version of the timeline that ties John Young, Ray Zapata and Chris Hartman together to conspire to steal John Sullivan’s estate from its alleged rightful owner, Sullivan’s half sister Louise Chabot.
White told the jury that the state had provided evidence proving Young, Zapata and Hartman conspired to forge the will and rush it through probate as fast as legally possible.
White said it was strange that Zapata didn’t tell anyone he witnessed Sullivan write the will on June 2, 2014 during the 30 phone calls made between the three only two days later on June 4 when Zapata and bail bondsman Armando Martinez found Sullivan dead. Prosecutors contend that is because the will didn’t exist at the time and that a ‘nervous’ Hartman took the purported will in the Catholic missal to the Tom Green County Clerk’s office for filing on June 5.
White told the jury the motive for forging the will and stealing the estate is the $900,000 contingency fee Young was set to receive from recovering the forfeiture of $3.7 million of Sullivan’s taken by the state as part of Sullivan’s online solicitation and child pornography possession case.
White went on to remind jurors that Young had Sullivan’s body cremated and that there was a text conversation between Zapata and Young on June 12 about the shredding in Sweetwater where the holographic will which surfaced with testimony by Greg Estes on Tuesday could have been destroyed.
White told jurors that, “Young buys Chris Hartman’s time. He buys Ray Zapata’s time. And he tried to buy Joe Hernandez’s time.” White said it’s all about money and, “Young didn’t want to pay Zapata directly so he would have a layer of separation.” And that’s where the money laundering comes in.
White said that Young and Hartman blamed Zapata. Everyone believed Ray. Everyone trusted Ray.
White said the evidence the state presented showed that Sullivan wanted to leave his estate to the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and to the boys he molested. He showed the jury a photo of the will Greg Estes presented Tuesday, which showed Sullivan wanted to leave his estate to San Angelo Attorney Rick Dehoyos as custodian for the SSPX and Matthew Bryan, one of the boys.
White said, “They schemed this. John Young is the mastermind. He isolates himself from the dirty work...The motive starts with the $900,000 contingency fee and ends with $6.6 million estate. The buck literally stops with John Young.”
Then it was the defense’s turn for closing arguments. Dan Hurley began. He thanked jurors for their service.
Hurley said prosecutors had a duty to see that justice is done and not to get convictions at all costs.
Then he turned to John Young and said, “I appreciate you John; Thank you for letting us represent you.” He then turned to jurors and told them the consequences of their decision would be incredibly severe. Hurley said the state had the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and this case was about circumstantial evidence.
Hurley told jurors to, “follow the burden of proof and justice will be done.”
Hurley reminded jurors that prosecutors said over and over again that Sullivan wouldn’t have written a holographic will and if he did it would’ve been covered with latin phrases. Then two days ago, Greg Estes provides photos showing Sullivan writing a holographic, handwritten will with no latin phrases leaving his estate to an attorney.
Hurley said, “I’m shocked the state would make Sullivan more than what he was.” Sullivan began his sick mind while attending Catholic schools back east according to Hurley.
Hurley calmly and sincerely told jurors that John Young was the only person who treated John Sullivan with respect and reminded jurors that Tip Hargrove on Wednesday had testified that Young had asked him why Sullivan would leave his estate to him. Hargrove said, “I’ll tell you why. You are the only one who treated him with respect.”
Defense attorney Frank Sellers then presented his closing remarks. Sellers told jurors the state had an obligation to present all the evidence possible and the jury has three jobs; make decisions, follow the law, and explain why you feel you are correct.
Sellers told jurors the 2013 Sullivan will which left the estate to San Angelo attorney Rick Dehoyos should have prompted prosecutors to call Dehoyos to the stand. They failed to provide the jury with that testimony.
Sellers also told jurors that John Young didn’t have to testify but he did and Chris Hartman didn’t have to testify either and risked his career to tell the truth to this jury.
Sellers told jurors the state hasn’t ruled out all other possibilities on each of the four counts.
It is significant that the state’s background check of Sullivan was 260 pages long and doesn’t mention he had a sister.
Sellers told jurors, “Ray Zapata is the only person who could clear this all up. Where’s Ray?”
The state failed to compell Zapata to testify, nor did the State offer Zapata full immunity for his testimony.
At 6:11 p.m. Sellers finished and prosecutor Shane Attaway began the state’s final rebuttal.
Attaway told jurors this case is about desperation and greed and the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Young was guilty.
Attaway said, “We’re proud to represent Tom Green County. We take this very seriously. We can’t let a Sweetwater attorney come down here and steal an estate.”
Attaway told jurors the prosecutors from the Attorney General’s office in Austin spent the last three weeks away from family and friends to see that justice is done.
Closing arguments ended at 7 p.m. Thursday. Judge Jones told the jury they were to be back in the Tom Green County courthouse to begin deliberations at 8:30 a.m. Friday morning.