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Still Kept Open Minds : Jurors at GAF Trial Distrusted Chief Witness for Government

January 12, 1989|SCOT J. PALTROW | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Two former jurors in the GAF Corp. stock manipulation trial disclosed that a number of jurors doubted the truthfulness of the government's main witness, Boyd L. Jefferies, the former chairman and chief executive of the Los Angeles-based securities firm Jefferies Group Inc.

Joann Crawford, 51, a management employee at New York Telephone Co., also said that in discussing the case among themselves, just after a federal judge declared a mistrial on Tuesday, some jurors indicated "prejudice" against Jefferies because of his wealth and a remark he had made about "menial jobs."

Needed More Evidence

GAF and its vice chairman, James T. Sherwin, are accused of plotting with Jefferies & Co., the brokerage subsidiary of Jefferies Group, to bid up the price of Union Carbide stock in 1986. GAF at the time was preparing to sell a big block of Carbide shares. U.S. District Judge Mary Johnson Lowe declared a mistrial Tuesday because a prosecutor had delayed turning over to defense lawyers a report suggesting that a crucial piece of evidence had been tampered with.

Jury selection is due to begin today for a retrial. But it may be delayed after a hearing this morning before the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on a request by defense lawyers to dismiss the case.

Crawford and Leo Lozada, 38, who served as jury foreman, said in interviews Wednesday that although they both had doubts about Jefferies' testimony, most jurors felt they hadn't heard enough evidence to have made up their minds about the case.

"There was a consensus (after the mistrial) that, at the point the trial was at, we did not have a good enough feeling one way or the other," Lozada said. "We would have had to hear more testimony or see more evidence."

The jurors said they had followed the judge's instruction not to discuss the case among themselves while the trial was still under way.

The mistrial was declared after Jefferies had testified for one week and the government was still presenting its case. The government was expected to call at least one additional witness--James Melton, the top trader at Jefferies & Co.--to try to directly corroborate Jefferies' account.

Lozada said that he and other jurors wouldn't have accepted Jefferies' testimony without corroboration because the former brokerage chairman has been cooperating with prosecutors to try to get a light sentence. Jefferies, implicated by former stock speculator Ivan F. Boesky in illegal securities schemes, pleaded guilty to two felony counts in 1987 and has been living at his home on the grounds of a country club in Indian Wells, near Palm Springs.

Lozada, a management consultant who works for nonprofit colleges, said that despite his own skepticism, he didn't totally discount Jefferies' testimony, adding that while on the stand Jefferies gave the appearance of telling the truth. But, Lozada said, "at least one other juror was more skeptical about his statements and his believability, because he is an admitted criminal."

Crawford said a few jurors seemed prejudiced against Jefferies because of "his station in life," she said. "They resented it." Several of the jurors were blue-collar or clerical workers. She said they had been influenced by the beginning of Jefferies' testimony, when he recounted his background and talked about working on a ranch for several years immediately after leaving college. He referred to the work as performing "menial jobs."

"That sort of stuck in some of their (the jurors') minds," she said.

Testimony Comprehensible

The Jefferies case is the first of a family of related cases, stemming from the guilty pleas of Boesky and former investment banker Dennis B. Levine, to come to trial. There was some concern among attorneys about whether jurors would be able to follow the jargon and complexities of stock trading and Wall Street finance.

But both Lozada and Crawford praised efforts by Judge Lowe and Assistant U.S. Atty. Carl H. Loewenson Jr. to ensure that all terms were explained in simple language. "I did not find it difficult to follow," she said.

However, on Tuesday, another juror, William Patten, had said in an interview that the trial at times had come close to being too complex for the jurors to follow.

But Lozada and Crawford said they were pleased with what they had learned during the trial about how the stock market works. "This was a hell of an education," Lozada said.

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