Stroger pal’s attorney to jurors: ‘Woof’
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter September 16, 2013 12:48PM
Eugene Mullins leaves the Federal Building on Monday. | Alex Wroblewski/Sun-Times
Updated: October 18, 2013 6:09AM
A trial that began a week ago with one of Eugene Mullins’ attorneys bringing an invisible, imaginary boy into the courtroom ended Monday with another — literally — barking like a dog.
“Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!” lawyer Brunell Donald-Kyei loudly barked during her closing arguments in the former Cook County spokesman’s corruption trial.
Donald-Kyei, who also used “Meow” cat sounds during her closing argument, was making an elaborate metaphor for what she called the “lies” of four cooperating government witnesses who testified they paid kickbacks of $34,000 to Mullins in return for county contracts.
The witnesses were like “dogs who said ‘meow,’ ” Donald-Kyei said.
But prosecutor Lindsay Jenkins said Mullins — former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger’s lifelong best pal — was like a “puppeteer” who pulled the strings of corrupt deals.
Jurors went home Monday evening without reaching a verdict after nearly four hours of deliberation.
Mullins, 49, and a former Chicago cop, is accused of steering four county contracts to pals in return for the kickbacks. Prosecutors say the vendors he helped win the contracts weren’t qualified and never intended to do the work.
They pointed to similarities between the almost identical contract proposals that the vendors submitted and “draft” contracts recovered from Mullins’ email account, suggesting he authored the bids and told his pals how to ask for just under $25,000 to avoid unwanted scrutiny.
The pals testified against Mullins, saying he solicited the kickbacks after hand-delivering their county checks.
But Donald-Kyei argued that all four were just telling the government what it “wanted to hear” because they’d been arrested and “they don’t want to go back to jail ever again.”
“You could have 50 million liars on the stand and it still wouldn’t be the truth,” she said. She suggested Mullins was being persecuted because he’d refused to turn against Stroger.
If Mullins had told investigators “I gave Todd Stroger money — I will tell you whatever you want to hear,” he wouldn’t have been charged, she suggested.
Instead, she said, Mullins “stood tall as a man.”
Donald-Kyei, who said she and her fellow attorneys had “put our hearts out there” in defense of Mullins, burst into tears after jurors were led from the courtroom at the end of her argument.
She was hugged and comforted by visibly moved lawyer John Richardson, who gave a similarly theatrical opening statement for Mullins a week ago in which he asked jurors to imagine Mullins when he was a 7-year-old boy known as “Little Geno,” and mimed holding the imaginary boy’s hand as he took him on a walk around the courtroom.
Mullins faces up to 20 years if convicted of wire fraud and bribery.