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Grace takes stand last time to defend himself

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BATON ROUGE-- Former St. Gabriel Mayor George Grace took the stand one last time in federal court Tuesday to defend himself before the defense rested their case.  Grace said he never exchanged his official position as mayor for bribes, something rebuttal witnesses denied.

Grace is charged with racketeering, fraud, bribery, and extortion for exchanging his official position as mayor for cash and other benefits.  Prosecutors said Grace wrote letters on behalf of Cifer 5000, a fake garbage-can cleaning company.  They say he also introduced undercover FBI operatives posing as businessmen, both in exchange for bribes.

Grace said he did accept things, but only from a "friend."  William Myles was an undercover FBI operative who posed as an corrupt businessman and gave gifts and other cash to Grace.  Grace called Myles a "close friend," and said he thought Myles was trying to help him.

Myles said accepting those things was not illegal, because his definition of an "official act" is "an act or problem or proposal that you actually bring to the city council."

Rebuttal witnesses testified Grace promised a million dollars to a contractor to renovate a warehouse; that was money city council members testified they never knew about.  Igor Grushewsky was that contractor, but he never got the $20,000 signed over to him by the city because he disappeared, witnesses testified.

FBI Special Agent Maurice Hattier told jurors Grace admitted he "solicited and received benefits" when Hattier interviewed him during the investigation in 2010.  Hattier said Grace then grew uncomfortable with the phrase "solicited," but admitted he received benefits.

Closing arguments are slated for Wednesday.  Deliberations could begin Wednesday as well.


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