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Archive for Friday, April 25, 2003

Court upholds charges against Wittig, ex-banker

April 25, 2003

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— A federal judge refused Thursday to dismiss charges against former Westar Energy Inc. chief David Wittig and a former Topeka bank president in an alleged loan and land scheme.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson also heard testimony on Wittig's request that he and Clinton Odell Weidner II be tried outside Topeka because of pretrial publicity.

The two men's trial -- which does not involve Westar business -- is scheduled to start June 30. The judge did not rule Thursday on the request for a change of venue and will hear more testimony on it May 9.

Wittig and Weidner were indicted last November on seven felony charges, including money laundering and bank fraud.

They are accused of hiding the true purpose of a $1.5 million loan from Capital City Bank to Wittig in 2001, when Weidner was the bank's president, chief executive officer and general counsel.

Prosecutors contend the transaction was misrepresented as a personal loan. In fact, prosecutors say, the men had agreed that Wittig would give the money to Weidner, who wanted to put $1.5 million into an Arizona real estate venture.

Both have pleaded innocent, and Wittig resigned shortly after the indictment as Westar's chairman, president and CEO.

Robinson, ruling from the bench Thursday, said it would be "premature" to grant the defendants' motions to dismiss the charges.

Weidner's lawyer, Bob Eye of Topeka, argued that dismissal was proper because prosecutors cannot show that the bank had been harmed.

The judge responded that the laws under which Wittig and Weidner were charged did not require a showing of harm.

"They're enacted to make criminal certain conduct," she said.

Wittig also presented testimony that he could not receive a fair trial in Topeka because of pretrial publicity.

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