Fireworks! Young's Defense Puts Texas AG Prosecutors on Stand


SAN ANGELO, TX -- Attorneys for John Young seeking a new trial put the prosecuting attorneys and investigator from the Texas Office of Attorney General on the stand Tuesday morning to testify in Young’s hearing for a new trial.

The bizarre turn of events was only the beginning in what became a trial more about the credibility of witnesses than the events surrounding Young’s conviction for theft, forgery and money laundering.  

Defense attorney Frank Sellers called Assistant Attorney General Shane Attaway to the stand first.  Sellers peppered the state prosecutor with questions about the law and the burden of prosecutors to turn over all evidence to the defense.  The motion for a retrial was made after Katie Hartman, the ex-wife of Sweetwater attorney Chris Hartman, signed a sworn affidavit just five days after Young’s trial ended in November.  In the affidavit, Katie Hartman swears she witnessed her ex-husband forge John Sullivan’s will in the back of a prayer book.  That forged will left Sullivan’s estate to John Young.  

At Seller’s questioning, Attaway testified that Katie Hartman called the OAG on Nov 1 during the Young trial and talked with Captain Greg Lucas.  Sellers played the recording of that phone call in court.  In it, Katie Hartman said she wanted to testify that Chris Hartman “had stolen a lot of money” and had a lot more information about his role in the John Sullivan estate case.  

Sellers is asking for a  new trial for Young because the OAG didn’t disclose that phone call until Dec 14, well after the trial was over and Young was sitting in prison.  After testimony peppered with objections and discussions about the rules of evidence, Attaway admitted that, “I failed to forward that information” to defense attorneys.  

This is where it gets weird.  Attaway’s co-council, Jonathan White, had to question Attaway.  During that questioning, Attaway said, “Information from Katie Hartman during Young’s trial would not prove Young’s innocence.”  

Katie Hartman called the OAG after reading in the media that Chris Hartman was granted immunity for his testimony in the Young trial and admitted he lied under oath to the grand jury.  Attaway testified that Chris Hartman did not have immunity from theft, forgery or money laundering.  

Then it was White’s turn.  Assistant Attorney General Jonathan White and Attaway switched places.  White took the stand and Attaway took his seat at the prosecutor’s table.  Attaway testified that, “Katie Hartman’s affidavit was completely inconsistent with what Katie told us before trial.”

Once the unique lawyers-questioning-lawyers episode was over, it was time for the OAG investigator to take the stand.  Brandon Riser is a Criminal Investigator with the OAG.  He was present for the Zapata trial and Young’s trial.  Riser testified that he called Katie Hartman when his boss, Captain Lucas, told him too.  That phone call occurred during a break in testimony at Young’s trial.  Riser and Katie Hartman talked for 12 minutes but that conversation wasn’t recorded.  Riser wrote a memo in December detailing his recollection of that conversation.  He says Katie Hartman told him that she was at Sullivan’s residence in June of 2014 when Chris Hartman and Ray Zapata were taking boxes of documents from the residence.  According to Riser, Katie Hartman told him she overheard Chris Hartman and John Young talk about needing to spend the money from the Sullivan estate as fast as possible before the boys Sullivan was accused of molesting could get it.  

When Riser had finished testifying, Sellers said, “O.K., we’ve been talking for five minutes about your 12 minute phone call.  Spend the next seven minutes telling us what else y’all talked about.”  Riser said he told her that there were rules about testimony and that he would have to let the prosecutors decide whether she could testify or not.  Katie Hartman would testify later that both Riser and Lucas told her it was too late for her to testify in John Young’s trial.  

Riser then went through Katie Hartman’s affidavit and detailed the inconsistencies between it and his phone conversation with her.  

Then just when it couldn’t become any more bizarre, Sellers introduced Katie Hartman’s phone record into evidence.  To show that Katie Hartman tried to call several agencies in an attempt to be able to testify in Young’s trial, Sellers took his co-council’s cell phone and had Riser call numbers from Katie Hartman’s phone record live from the witness stand.  

Katie Hartman in her affidavit said she tried to call Texas Ranger Nick Hanna on Nov 1 during the trial.  Sellers had Riser call a number with the speaker on; what played from the witness stand was Ranger Hanna’s voicemail message.  

The rest of Tuesday’s testimony was from Katie Hartman.  While on the stand, Katie Hartman testified that she watched Chris Hartman write in the prayer book.  She said Chris Hartman told her he was ‘doctoring’ the will.  Defense attorney Dan Hurley showed Katie Hartman the prayer book that was in evidence and she said, “It looks pretty much like it.”

Katie Hartman testified that her ex-husband bragged about being in charge of the Sullivan estate; that he was the mastermind.  She said he bought a $65,000 pickup and several rent houses after Sullivan’s will was probated and he was paid by John Young.  

Under cross examination by Attaway, Katie Hartman testified that during her phone call with Riser, “I remember saying Chris was definitely the mastermind and he was proud of it.”

Prosecutors spent hours grinding away at Katie Hartman’s testimony and her affidavit.  

Then there was another bizarre twist.  San Angelo attorney Mark Brown was sitting in the courtroom taking notes.  At one point, he passed a note to prosecutors.  Sellers saw the note and literally stopped the proceedings demanding to see the note.  Both prosecuting and defense attorneys were summoned to the bench before District Judge Brock Jones.  The content of the letter was not disclosed.  

John Young’s wife, daughter and brother sat through the long day’s proceedings a few rows behind Young.  He was wearing an orange and white shirt, orange pants and had his hands shackled to his waist.  He wore reading glasses and was actively involved with his defense team.  

Both the defense and prosecution have additional witnesses to call on Wednesday.  Judge Jones said proceedings will begin at 10 a.m.

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Damn he looks good in orange and a buzz cut.... LOL
Just leave him there.... There's plenty other crooked attorneys around if anyone needs one.....

You really want to let the AGs office keep screwing people over. Sure sounds like she was trying to get in touch with the ranger and the AGs office. Sounds like they let the main person slide through the cracks.

doesn't look like anything here is going to exonerate Young and get him out of prison- if anything it's just going to make Hartman look worse and end up in there with him.
and who knows, maybe that's all Young really wants- if he can't be free then nobody else involved with the crime should either I guess is what he's thinking?

Under the Brady rule, prosecutors are not held liable unless they fail to turn over exculpatory evidence, and Attaway testified that the evidence would not have proven Young's innocence.

That silver-haired sinister snake Hurley deliberately misled the jury when he showed a witness in the trial a series of photographs that, he claimed, disproved the statements of several witnesses that John Sullivan would not have wanted to be cremated because it was not allowed until after Vatican II, and Sullivan never accepted Vatican II. Hurley had to or should have known better than to twist things the way he did. It is disingenuous, to say the least, that he and Sellers are whining about "evidence" that is not exculpatory being withheld when Hurley tried to hoodwink the jury.

The Texas Lawyer's Creed mandates that an attorney "...will not knowingly misrepresent, mischaracterize, misquote or miscite facts or authorities to gain an advantage." By any reasonable standard, Hurley did exactly what Texas attorneys are mandated NOT to do. An ethics complaint is forthcoming.

The Hartman testimony is interesting, but she has a motive for her accusations, as almost all ex-spouses do. But if she's telling the truth, it only serves to implicate one more person in this sordid affair. What is odd, though, is that KH claimed she did not come forward sooner because CH "threatened" her. So what has changed? How is she no longer "threatened"? As a point of clarification, was KH married to CH in 2014? If not, it would be odd that CH would tell her anything incriminating. Even if they were still married, how weird would it be for a wife to know what her husband was doing (stealing money AND keeping money from going to Sullivan's victims) and remain silent? She waited more than three years to come forward and claims she did so only because she read that CH was given immunity for his testimony? That makes no sense. She was at the scene of a crime, knew about it, and kept quiet, letting CH remain free while a co-conspirator went to prison. Wouldn't Young have mentioned this? The money's all gone, the incentive for Young to keep quiet is gone too. I would like to see her charged with a crime.

I have a sense that we have not yet gotten the whole story and that perhaps there may be one more conspirator, maybe a judge.

The best part of yesterday's proceedings was being able to imagine Young in prison garb, his hands shackled to his waist.

hexi, Tue, 01/16/2018 - 10:02

find it convenient that John Sullivan's remains were cremated almost immediately after his death?
A cremation that went against a devout catholic's beliefs?
Has science found a way to test cremains for toxins?

I spoke with a forensic pathologist who said that it was almost impossible to test for toxins after cremation. She said "almost" because it would be possible if the temperature did not get hot enough.

I share your suspicions regarding the speedy timeline for cremation. I find it odd that a judge would have approved such a method of disposing of the body, especially given Sullivan's notoriety. The Church has several reasons why it always opposed cremation (prior to the 1960s, and changes which Sullivan never approved of), and one important reason was that it allowed for the possibility of exhuming the body to examine it for signs of trauma and could be tested for toxins. Fire has been the friend of many criminals over the millennia.

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