Posted 6/10/2013 12:00 am
Updated 6 months ago
U.S. District Judge Brian Miller, the third federal judge to take on the bank fraud case of former Mount Ida insurance agent Steve Standridge, has said no to Standridge’s request to depose one of the government’s two primary witnesses.
Pretrial depositions are not generally allowed in criminal cases, but Standridge and his Little Rock attorney, Tim Dudley, thought this situation was special enough to make the request.
When Standridge was indicted on 12 felony counts last August, federal prosecutors revealed that two of his former customers had already pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bank fraud.
One of those customers, Gregory A. Hunt of Russellville, began his 33-month sentence in the federal prison at Memphis in January, but he died Feb. 25 at age 46 — from natural causes, according to the motion Dudley filed.
With “one key witness … eliminated due to an untimely death,” Dudley asked to depose the other, Danny Wood of Idabel, Okla., president of Wood Lumber Co., which has operations at Camden and Idabel.
Wood also began his 30-month federal prison sentence in January — but at the federal prison in Fort Worth, which has special medical facilities.
“Mr. Wood, who is confined to a wheelchair, is at the facility because he is seriously ill,” Dudley wrote. Defendant Standridge “wishes to preserve Mr. Wood’s testimony because Mr. Wood has made substantial exculpatory statements concerning the defendant’s alleged role in the so-called conspiracy.”
Judge Miller denied the request on May 15, saying Dudley’s information about Wood’s condition was simply incorrect.
“Specifically, Wood’s attorney represented that he is unaware of any serious illness or life-threatening condition that Wood has incurred and that the reason Wood is being housed at that facility in Texas is because he is a paraplegic.”
In fact, according to other court documents, Wood, 61, has been paralyzed below the waist since a sawmill accident in 1981. The prison clinical director told the court there was no reason Wood couldn’t travel and testify at Standridge’s trial, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 23.
Wood, in pleading guilty in March 2012, admitted helping defraud Chambers Bank of Danville out of almost $3.2 million and the Bank of Delight out of $125,000 — crimes with which Standridge is also charged.
But before that, in November 2011, Wood also pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Texarkana, Texas, to wire fraud for filing false loan documents in order to get loans totaling $1.82 million from Lone Star Production Credit of New Boston, Texas. He is serving 20 months for that charge, concurrent with his 30-month sentence from Arkansas.