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Second trial ordered for beach mayor

Three co-defendants were found guilty, but jurors deadlocked on the Belleair Beach mayor's money laundering charge.


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 26, 2000

After 12 hours of deliberation over two days, a jury Tuesday deadlocked on whether longtime Belleair Beach Mayor Bill Atteberry is guilty of money laundering.

U.S. Magistrate Maurice Paul declared a mistrial and scheduled a second trial for the 60-year-old mayor on Aug. 21.

Atteberry "was very disappointed that the jury didn't acquit him, but he is prepared to try it again," said Atteberry's attorney, Stephen Crawford.

Atteberry couldn't be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Three co-defendants, including St. Petersburg resident Judy Giglio, were found guilty by the jury of six men and six women.

The specter of another trial left Atteberry's supporters and critics disappointed. A cloud of suspicion has hung over the mayor since his May 1999 arrest, and the matter has been the subject of gossip and wild rumors in his small but affluent Pinellas beach community of about 2,200 residents.

"It's beyond belief," said Vice Mayor Kaye Woolcott, who testified Wednesday as a character witness on the mayor's behalf. "I think it's a waste of time to put him through this again."

Resident Mary Hayes, who called on Atteberry to resign at the first City Commission meeting after his arrest, said some residents wonder whether Atteberry is fulfilling his duties as mayor.

"I just think it drags it out and keeps the city under pressure and under duress," said Hayes, who has lived in Belleair Beach for 10 years. "You sort of don't know who's running the show."

Atteberry was accused of participating in a sophisticated scheme in which millions of dollars were swindled from investors and wired to a bank in Antigua.

Atteberry, who testified in his own defense, said he did not know he was leading Young Living Essential Oils, a Utah-based organic oils company, into a scam. He offered to help find people willing to give the company a loan. In exchange, Atteberry's company at the time, Atlantic International Mortgage Co., would get 21/2 percent of the loan amount for acting as a broker.

Atteberry contacted Robert Newman, a man who said he could help find investors. Newman collected $240,000 from the Utah company, but he never came through with the loan, prosecutors said.

The case was tried in Gainesville, where federal prosecutors have tried several dozen people in the wide-ranging operation.

During deliberations, jurors asked for a transcript of Atteberry's testimony, along with three government witnesses and the testimony of a Young Living Essential Oils executive. The judge refused, telling jurors to rely on their collective memory.

"We had a hard-working jury, and I have no doubt they gave it their best shot," Crawford said Tuesday afternoon.

Crawford said he believes the Aug. 21 retrial may have to be delayed because of scheduling conflicts. If convicted, Atteberry would be forced to resign. He would also face up to five years in prison.

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