A federal judge declared a mistrial Wednesday in the fraud and conspiracy trial of political extremist Lyndon LaRouche, six aides and five LaRouche organizations following complaints from jurors that it was taking too much time.
U.S. District Judge Robert Keeton declared the mistrial after dismissing four jurors who said they could not serve past July. Lawyers said the case could not be concluded by that time."I find that it is clear that these four jurors will be unable to continue to serve as fair and impartial jurors after mid-July," Keeton said. "There is not the slightest possibility that we will complete this trial in that time."
Defense attorneys refused to go along with prosecutor John Markham's suggestion that the trial continue with only 10 jurors. Markham said he would seek to have the trial immediately rescheduled.
"We'll proceed to a new trial date and seek a verdict," Markham said.
LaRouche attorneys, however, said they would fight a new trial on the grounds that it would violate their clients' rights to have only one trial on one set of charges.
"We knocked the train off the track, and it's awfully hard to get it back on once that happens," said defense attorney Michael Reilly, who represents the National Caucus of Labor Committees, LaRouche's central political group.
The four organizations charged with fraud are The LaRouche Campaign, Independent Democrats for LaRouche, Caucus Distributors Inc. and Campaigner Publications Inc. Their attorneys, however, told the judge they doubted even that portion of the case could be completed by July.
LaRouche and the others are charged with conspiring to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation into allegations LaRouche's 1984 presidential campaign reaped more than $2 million through credit card and loan fraud.
The pace of the trial has been slow from the outset, with the dozen defense lawyers constantly challenging government positions and often bickering among themselves.
Keeton has put testimony on hold for the past two months to hold hearings on alleged government misconduct.
LaRouche faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of conspiring to obstruct justice. The aides face similar charges and penalties.