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May 30, 2008
CVS trial: It's in the jury's hands now
Journal photo / Frank Gerardi
Chief District Judge Mary M. Lisi this morning instructs the jury in the trial of two former CVS executives.
PROVIDENCE -- And now they deliberate.
At 10:35 this morning, a jury of eight men and four women received the federal corruption case against former CVS executives John R. "Jack’’ Kramer and Carlos Ortiz.
"You should exercise reasonable and intelligent judgment,’’ advised Chief U.S. District Judge Mary M. Lisi.
She urged them not to feel pressured to yield their position if they are in the minority, but also not to be stubborn and to "keep an open mind.’’
The deliberations began after a three-week trial and followed an hour of instructions this morning from the judge on the law. Lisi defined such basic concepts as "beyond a reasonable doubt’’ and then outlined the elements of the 23 counts that Kramer and Ortiz are charged with -- 1 count of conspiracy to commit honest-services mail fraud, 21 counts of honest-services mail fraud and 1 count of bribery.
Kramer and Ortiz are accused of hiring a Rhode Island senator, John Celona, as a $1,000-a-month consultant to help further the legislative agenda of the Woonsocket-based drugstore chain giant. By doing so, they allegedly deprived the citizens of Rhode Island of the honest services of an elected official.
Read Journal coverage of the lawyers' closing arguments.
Extra: Trial coverage and more on the related Operation Dollar Bill investigation.
-- Journal staff writer Mike Stanton
A key question that the jury must decide is whether Kramer and Ortiz acted "knowingly and willfully’’ to corrupt Celona by hiring him to influence his actions as a senator.
Under Rhode Island law, Lisi explained to the jury, part-time legislators can participate in legislation affecting a company they work for, as long as the legislation affects all similar types of businesses equally. It is the legislator’s responsibility to determine if there is a conflict, and whether to avoid participating.
Furthermore, Lisi instructed, the law allows a business with a legislator on its payroll to communicate with that legislator regarding legislation, provided that the payments to the legislator are not intended to influence his official actions.
Kramer and Ortiz maintain that CVS hired Celona for legitimate public relations purposes and that the defendants’ communications with Celona on legislation was permissible.
The prosecution counters that there was no sensible reason for CVS to hire Celona, other than for political favors, since the evidence shows that he didn’t do the public relations work mentioned in his consulting agreement, that he was paid from CVS’s political contributions account and that Kramer and Ortiz sought to conceal the relationship.
Prosecutors hammered at the point that Celona helped kill pharmacy choice legislation that Kramer and Ortiz reported would have cost CVS millions of dollars in profits.
Posted by Mike McKinney at 11:12 AM | Permalink
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