Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Juror Conduct in Flip Case in Question

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Juror Conduct in Flip Case in Question

Article excerpt

TAMPA

RULING: With convictions at stake, U.S. judge calls for an evidentiary hearing

Acting quickly in response to recent allegations of jury misconduct during last year's federal flipping fraud trial, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich on Thursday ordered that an evidentiary hearing be held next week.

The March 13 hearing, which will be closed to the public, is expected to involve testimony from at least two of the 12 jurors who deliberated on the case.

Kovachevich has imposed a gag order on attorneys involved, preventing them from discussing any matters regarding juror misconduct until she tells them otherwise.

"I've got to get this thing on the road," Kovachevich said in court on Thursday. "We need to deal with this matter to ascertain whether we have to take dramatic and serious action in this case."

The allegations raise the possibility that guilty verdicts against Paula Hornberger, George Cavallo and Joel Streinz will be thrown out. The situation arises from a female juror's alleged Internet research during deliberations.

That same juror was also coerced to change her vote from "not guilty" to "guilty" by a second juror, who threatened to expose the searches.

"The fact that the judge has acted so quickly means she's taking this very seriously," said Arthur Patterson, a Sarasota psychologist who serves as an expert witness in juror misconduct cases. "A lot of judges don't like to do this. They don't want to hear anything that may cause a mistrial."

Hornberger, Cavallo and Streinz were sentenced to prison in October for their roles in a decadelong flipping fraud conspiracy headed by former Sarasota real estate agent Craig Adams and his chief lieutenant, Rich Bobka, following a three-month trial.

Hornberger, who is married to Cavallo, is incarcerated in Seattle's Sea Tac federal penitentiary, while Streinz is a prisoner in a federal facility in Yazoo City, Miss.

Cavallo is not expected to turn himself in to federal Bureau of Prisons officials until June. …

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