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Hooters jury says it is deadlocked

The Judge urged the panel to take as long as necessary to reach a verdict.

By KEVIN GRAHAM
Published November 15, 2005

TAMPA - A deadlocked jury in the federal tax evasion trial against Hooters founder Lynn "L.D." Stewart agreed Tuesday to try again Wednesday to reach a verdict.

Jurors sent two separate notes to U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew indicating they could not reach a unanimous decision. They must decide whether Stewart, 62, conspired with accountant and longtime friend Michael Maricle to defraud the government. Stewart faces two counts of tax evasion and two counts of filing false tax returns.

In the second note addressed to the judge, the jury foreman wrote, "We are convinced that further deliberations will not help us ... and are in a deadlock we feel cannot be overcome."

"This is not a surprising turn of events," Bucklew told attorneys before reconvening the jury to ask that they continue deliberating. It was the jury's second day of deliberations.

The judge said the case against Stewart has been an "expensive trial in effort, money and emotional strain." She asked jurors to take as long as they needed to reach a unanimous decision, without compromising their personal beliefs.

"When this happens, I always feel like the jury looks at me and expects me to give them the answer, to solve whatever issue," Bucklew said.

If convicted, Stewart faces as much as five years in prison on each evasion charge and an additional three years for each false return claim - as much as 16 years total.

The Internal Revenue Service says Stewart owes about $4-million more in income taxes than he paid in 1997 and 1998. He's accused of underreporting his income by about $11-million during those two years.

Jurors will return to continue deliberating at today at 9:30 a.m. This time, the judge didn't ask whether they wanted her to order them lunch.

Kevin Graham can be reached at 813 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com

[Last modified November 15, 2005, 19:05:57]


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