By Chris Lane
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Indeed, Brown found little, if anything, credible about Rosalind's attempt to keep 2214 Bluff Creek by filing for bankruptcy protection. The judge ruled that Mike accepted the $250,000 from the Hofheinz trust and then, with Rosalind's cooperation, decided to lie and say the house had been sold without his wife's knowledge. The judge also found that Mike had forged his wife's name on a Bluff Creek stock certificate, as well as a 1991 bankruptcy petition filed on Rosalind's behalf.
"The Court finds that neither Michael Graham nor Rosalind Graham is a credible witness," Judge Brown declared in her order.
Perhaps the judge's most significant comment, however, concerned the testimony of prosecutor Steve Irwin in September 1996. At the time, Irwin acknowledged that while the Grahams were "manipulative con men" of the first order, their story was verified on at least four occasions through monitored phone conversations and face-to-face meetings.
Brown saw no evidence of that. In her final order, the judge wrote that Louisiana prosecutors "had no first-hand knowledge of the facts and relied on statements and information derived from Michael Graham."
It may yet turn out that for all Mike and Pat's credibility problems, they have provided enough information to show that Edwin Edwards was bribed as part of the effort to build the Jena jail. The key question, though, is whether Fred Hofheinz actively participated in the alleged crime, or even knew about it.
According to court documents, some of which quote the transcripts of FBI wiretaps, Hofheinz appears never to have taken or received a phone call from Edwin Edwards during the investigation. If he did, nothing significant -- such as Hofheinz's need for the governor's assistance or Edwards's desire for money in return -- was discussed, apparently.
The recordings, most of which document conversations between Pat Graham and Cecil Brown, do not seem to directly implicate Hofheinz as the source of the alleged payments, either. In fact, his name is rarely mentioned. The only clear evidence that the accusations are true is the Graham brothers' testimony that they were Hofheinz's bag men.
It's worth noting as well that Hofheinz wasn't indicted until November 1999, a year after Edwards. The federal statute of limitations, which determines how much time can elapse between an alleged crime and an indictment, is five years. In addition to the questionable 1992 payment of $250,000, the Grahams told the feds that Hofheinz gave another $845,000 to Edwards. But that allegedly happened in 1994. Likewise, any bribes Hofheinz supposedly paid to get Edwards's support of Top Rank of Louisiana's pro basketball proposal had to have occurred in 1994 as well. The NBA rejected Top Rank's offer to buy the Timberwolves in June of that year.
Not that Hofheinz shouldn't be worried, of course. Edwards was, after all, found guilty last month. And so was Cecil Brown, for extortion. Those convictions were based on the testimony of three men who had already pleaded guilty, including the former owner of the San Francisco Forty-Niners, Edward DeBartolo.
So, what ever happened to the youth correctional facility in Jena?
The jail was built, all right, but not by Hofheinz and the Grahams. The scenario Pat laid out for the feds -- $1.25 million to Edwards up front, another $1.25 million when the financing closed -- never transpired. The only person who got paid was Fred Hofheinz, who split $1.5 million with Raintree Capital Company, a Houston mergers and acquisitions firm that negotiated the sale of the project to Wackenhut Corrections Corp. Hofheinz has testified that the $750,000 he received was close to what he had invested in the project.
In a prologue that could have been written only by Mike and Pat Graham, the brothers sued Hofheinz, Raintree and others, including Andy Collins. The suit claimed the sale to Wackenhut was supposed to go like this: $1.3 million to the Grahams, another $1.3 million to Cecil Brown, and $1.5 million to Hofheinz. Instead, Mike and Pat had been "screwed" out of their share, as was Cecil Brown -- and, presumably, so was Edwin Edwards. The lawsuit was eventually dropped.
1>A<1>ndy Collins first met the Graham brothers in 1990, when Pat and Mike were trying to convince TDCJ to use the six jails they had built in rural areas of West Texas. As it happened, the state took a pass on the Grahams' jails, a fact that eventually prompted investors to sue them for fraud.
Collins didn't hear from Pat Graham again until early 1995, when Pat called and asked Collins if he wouldn't mind going over his plans for the Jena project. Collins agreed, and before long he was negotiating with Hofheinz and the Grahams to handle the day-to-day operation of the jail once it opened.
Collins formed a shell corporation and, in late July 1995, signed an agreement with Hofheinz to manage the future facility. Collins had planned to retire at some point before the jail was finished. But when Governor George W. Bush caught wind of his contract with Hofheinz, Collins announced he would leave TDCJ on December 31, 1995.
Until the LaSalle Parish jail was built, Collins planned to work as a consultant for VitaPro Foods Inc. to market the company's soy-based meat substitute. Collins and VitaPro were a neat fit. The company had been selling its product to Texas prisons for two years and had even cut a deal to have TDCJ distribute VitaPro to other U.S. customers.