A federal court judge in North Carolina warned insurance magnate Greg Lindberg and his team today to stop contacting jurors in his recently completed bribery case.
Lindberg, a Durham, N.C., billionaire, was convicted March 5 of using the promise of millions in campaign money to bribe North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey. Lindberg owns Global Bankers Insurance Group, a managing company for several insurance and reinsurance companies.
The federal jury also found Lindberg associate John Gray guilty on two public corruption charges. Associate John Palermo was found not guilty. Lindberg and Gray could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for one of the charges and up to 10 additional years on the other.
Shortly after the guilty verdict, Judge Max O. Cogburn said he learned that the defense team was making contact with jurors.
"This Court learned that an individual affiliated with Defendants was reaching out to the jurors in this matter," the judge wrote. "When a juror declined to speak with that individual, they were allegedly told, 'Don’t you know these men could get life?'"
Neither of the two corruption charges carry a life sentence, Cogburn noted. The jury contact allegation was turned over to the U.S. Attorney's Office for investigation. Jury harassment and intimidation charges of possible, Cogburn added.
On Tuesday, the court received an email from Matt McCusker, a senior consultant and president with Convince LLC, Cogburn wrote. McCusker told the court he had been hired by the Lindberg defense team to contact jurors.
"McCusker stated that, after the verdict, '[he] began reaching out to jurors to see if they
would be willing to discuss the case with [him],'” Cogburn wrote. "He assured the Court that, if jurors declined to speak, he 'thanked them for their time and told them that they would not be hearing from [him] again.'"
Convince claims it can “benefit” litigants by "finding out if a juror Googled during deliberations,” Cogburn wrote, which give defendants an argument for appeal.
"The Court will not tolerate attempts to taint the jury’s verdict by applying undue pressure on jury members," the judge wrote.
The federal government filed a motion Friday in a North Carolina court for forfeiture of nearly $1.5 million seized from Lindberg. The money was seized by the FBI from two separate Wells Fargo bank accounts during the agency's investigation.
The trial hinged on hours of secretly recorded conversations between Causey, Lindberg and his associates. Jurors also heard extensive testimony from Causey, who cooperated in the federal sting and wore a clandestine recording device to capture his conversations with the defendants.
Over the course of the eight-day trial inside Charlotte's century-old federal courthouse, prosecutors contended there was abundant evidence to show what Lindberg and his associates wanted for their money: They wanted Causey to reassign the senior regulator who oversaw one of Lindberg's companies.
The recordings played for the jury showed that Lindberg and his associates repeatedly urged Causey to move Jackie Obusek, the deputy N.C. insurance commissioner responsible for regulating Lindberg's company. They contended Obusek was unjustly hurting the reputation of Lindberg's companies and hampering their ability to make investments and acquisitions in other states.
The recordings also revealed that the defendants promised Causey that they would send him millions in campaign contributions, initially through an independent expenditure committee and later through the North Carolina Republican Party.
Ultimately, the Republican Party did transfer $250,000 to Causey's campaign.
Defense lawyers argued that Lindberg and his co-defendants were innocent victims of a politician who used his power to "try to entrap and ensnare them."
Those lawyers also contended that Causey had a strong motivation for entrapping Lindberg: The insurance company magnate was the largest financial supporter of Causey's chief political opponent -- former insurance commissioner Wayne Goodwin, who Causey narrowly defeated in the 2016 election.
Lindberg donated at least $9,500 to Goodwin during the 2016 race, according to state records.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @INNJohnH.
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