SAN ANGELO, TX -- “I did.” Sweetwater attorney Chris Hartman testified Tuesday in the John Young theft, forgery and money laundering trial that he misled the first Grand Jury and deceived Texas Ranger Nick Hanna in his recorded interview by not telling them about a $65,312.50 check he wrote to Ray Zapata. “I knew I perjured myself before the first grand jury.”
Prosecuting attorney Shane Attaway said, “You kept the money and didn’t say anything about getting the $65,312.50 back.” Hartman had testified that he received a check from John Young for $167,500 in legal fees for work on the Sullivan probate and estate.
Hartman then wrote a check for $65,312.50 and left it blank. Ray Zapata picked up the check and delivered it to Dallas attorney Juan Marquez who deposited it into an Interest On Trust Lawyers Account (IOLTA) which Marquez then gave to Zapata.
Earlier testimony said Zapata wrote checks out of the IOLTA account for approximately $60,000.
Above: Sweetwater probate attorney Chris Hartman. (chrishartmanlaw.com)
Once Zapata found out that Ranger Hanna was investigating the Sullivan will and estate, he wrote a check from the IOLTA back to Hartman. And Hartman testified that he kept and spent the money because he didn’t think he would be getting anymore money from the estate because it had been taken from John Young and was being administered by a court appointed administrator.
Hartman was given immunity at the second grand jury and testified about the check.
Hartman also seemed to contradict earlier testimony that he had cut the will out of the Catholic prayer book at the county clerk’s office so it could be filed. Jesse Hickman was working in the county clerk’s office in 2014 and testified that Hartman used a razor to cut the will out of the book for it to be filed. Hartman said, “I didn’t cut the will out of the book.”
Judge Brock Jones excused Hartman from the witness stand at 2:05 Tuesday afternoon.
Hartman testified after Mandy Boone and Billy Boone of Abilene. They testified as character witnesses for John Young. They said they attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with Young and know him to be an honest and truthful man.
Hartman’s wide ranging testimony also included the phone records the day Sullivan was found dead. He told jurors he was the person who told Young in a phone call that day that Zapata had a will and it left everything to Young.
Hartman said Young was in shock and disbelief. Hartman’s testimony was peppered with objections to relevance by the defense while he was being cross examined by prosecutors.
Also testifying as character witnesses for John Young were Abilene private investigator Wayne Knowles, parole officer Ricky Chittum, Methodist Pastor Brian Brownlow, and Sweetwater accountant Jeanie McPherson.
Debra Hargrove was the last witness on the stand Tuesday. She is the wife of San Angelo attorney Tip Hargrove. John Young rented office space from Hargrove.
Hargrove said she was in the office on June 5, 2014 and saw Ray Zapata, Chris Hartman and John Young go upstairs into Young’s rented office. Attorneys presumed they were conversing about John Sullivan’s death, estate and will. She told jurors that Ranger Hanna was also in the office that day interviewing Tip Hargrove because three days earlier Tip was shot in the foot.
Hargrove testified that she saw John Sullivan more often than any other client of Young’s and even counseled him to cut those conversations short because it was taking up to much time.
Hargrove also testified that after Young had secured Sullivan’s estate, he wanted to do something for Tip Hargrove. That resulted in a $10,000 donation in Tip’s honor to Hargrove’s alma mater, the Citadel in Charleston, S.C.
Prosecutors asked Debra Hargrove if Tip Hargrove was a workout partner with County Court-At-Law Judge Ben Nolen. She said, “Yes. Tip has many workout partners.” She also testified that Tip Hargrove represented Ray Zapata early on in this case but then was replaced.
Testimony will continue at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday morning with Tom Green County Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace J.P. McGuire taking the stand. McGuire pronounced Sullivan dead on June 4, 2014.