Jurors laugh while George Grace testifies
BATON ROUGE - Jurors laughed aloud while Grace testified in his own defense on the stand Monday morning. Grace avoided prosecutor Corey Amundson's questions over and over, but eventually testified he exchanged official acts as mayor for benefits.
Amundson showed video of Grace talking with an undercover FBI operative he thought was a corrupt businessman. Grace is recorded saying he doesn't accept cash in front of "no [expletive] open windows." On the stand, Grace admitted he took $2,000 from the undercover operative, after the two went to another room.
Amundson pressed Grace to answer why he didn't want to accept money in front of open windows. Grace repeatedly failed to answer the question directly, first calling it his "policy," then after about ten minutes of continual questioning from Amundson as to Grace's reasons, Grace suggested he was afraid he'd get robbed. Then, Grace said he might be killed. Finally, Grace told jurors he was afraid someone would think it was a dope deal.
After Amundson showed the jury one more transcript, he asked Grace, "Does it have anything to do with the fact that you didn't want law enforcement to see you taking money from a vendor seeking to do business with your city?"
Grace admitted, "That was a reason also."
"Why didn't you tell us that at first?" Amundson asked.
"Because I wasn't aware of the rest of the transcript," Grace replied, even though that transcript was played in court weeks ago when undercover operative William Myles testified against Grace.
Later in the day, jurors heard a telephone recording of Grace asking an undercover operative to play for a friend's plane ticket to Uganda, then Grace's own plane ticket to Uganda. Grace estimated that costs about $5,000 per ticket.
Grace testified he was going to Uganda to discuss starting a water company with the country's president. Beforehand, he stopped in Libya, where Grace said he met with dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Grace told the jury Gadhafi asked him to speak with Uganda's president on his behalf, which Grace said he did. At the time, prosecutors said Gadhafi was designated as a state-sponsored terrorist, but Grace denied that, saying the people in Libya had no one to advocate for them.
Grace added that he interviewed with Al Jazeera in his own office.
Some jurors appeared lethargic and close to falling asleep as Grace admitted he exchanged official acts as mayor for benefits, then lying in letters to the Environmental Protection Agency.
"I'm a bad [expletive, expletive]!" Grace said in recordings jurors heard.
Prosecutors finished questioning Grace around 4:00. Now it is up to defense attorneys to clarify anything they feel was misconstrued by prosecutors.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Wednesday.