Sheldon Player, a key character in the multimillion-dollar Greyhound Financial fraud, cannot be contacted by lawyers or parties in the matter unless his own attorney is present, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Broomfield has ruled.
Broomfield reaffirmed an earlier ruling to that effect even though Player no longer has a lawyer.Loni DeLand, the Salt Lake lawyer who represented Player, withdrew from the case a month ago. He told the Deseret News he was forced to drop out because Player couldn't pay him.
Shortly afterward, Player wrote two peculiar letters to the judge, notes that are nearly self-contradictory.
Broomfield, appointed from Phoenix, Ariz., to hear the Greyhound suit in Salt Lake City's federal court, made two exceptions Friday to his rule against talking to Player: Two lawyers from each side may contact him to arrange for depositions, and Player can be questioned in deposition sessions.
The Greyhound suit is shaping up as one of the strangest in Utah history. It was filed in Phoenix in August 1985, with the bus company claiming it was bilked for $66 million in bad loans between October 1984 and June 1985. The suit has a cast of dozens of characters and keeps developing in complexity.
The case was transferred to Salt Lake City in September 1987, with Broomfield appointed to continue hearing the matter.
Player, formerly of Vernal and now living in Mesa, Ariz., admitted involvement in the fraud, pleading guilty in 1986 to three federal fraud counts. He has yet to be sentenced. At one time he cooperated with Greyhound Financial and the company said it was able to recover at least $48 million.
Later, Player retracted some of his statements, saying they were made under duress. He claimed he was harassed by Greyhound Financial's attorneys, from the firm of Kelley Drye & Warren.
The latest twist is that Player wrote letters to Broomfield, dated March 5 and March 8, in which his position vacillates.
"I write this to apologize to you and to assure you that I have finally gained the courage to tell the complete truth in the Greyhound case," says the earlier letter. "Back in 1985 I left out the whole truth because I didn't want to blame anyone but myself. I felt I should come forth and right the wrong on my own.
"Kelley-Drye's attorneys, my own attorneys, and federal officials brought out additional names and facts . . . .
"Then my nightmare began. I vowed to tell the truth to the FBI and U.S. attorney's office, which I have done. But in the meantime I can't put in words what I went through when I began saying and signing whatever Kelley-Drye attorneys wanted, knowing things weren't right which they wanted.
"During the hundreds of sessions with them I was without an attorney. The fear I felt from them concerning my criminal sentence and the physical and emotional well-being of my family is beyond words.
"It finally caught up with me that I was being threatened and seduced into betraying and framing associates and total strangers alike so that Greyhound could profit from my situation and in return I could remain free and be allowed to work to support my family."
The letter adds that for nearly two years with Kelley-Drye attorneys, "being stripped of privacy, dignity and integrity was worse than going to prison."
But only three days after launching that attack on the Kelley-Drye lawyers, Player wrote a letter that seemed to be 180 degrees away from his earlier position. Both letters were placed in the public file by Broomfield.
"Dear Judge Broomfield," Player wrote. "After careful consideration of the events over the past two months it seems as though one solution to some of the havoc is that I go back and cooperate with Kelley-Drye . . . .
"I feel I can cooperate and save Greyhound and the court a considerable amount of time and money and yet still maintain my integrity by not letting false statements to be created."
During a court hearing Friday, doubts were aired about Player's allegations.
Greyhound Financial lawyer Robert Ehrenbard argued he believed some defendants have had private access to Player, and "indeed, there are some defendants who have acted in collusion with Mr. Player."
Player is scheduled to testify Friday in Phoenix against J. R. Willyard, his former partner, in a criminal trial. Defense and Greyhound lawyers alike Friday told the judge Friday that Player has not cooperated recently in pretrial meetings.
"One time he didn't show up and other times when questions were put to him he just got up and left," said Phoenix lawyer Daniel McAuliffe, who represents another defendant.