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Prosecutors oppose split of Lyons counts


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 9, 1998

Federal prosecutors have filed papers opposing a judge's suggestion that they try the Rev. Henry J. Lyons on the simplest charges first and save the more complicated ones for later.

U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. had said the idea might save time. But in a memorandum filed Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Kunz argued "such a procedure would result in multiple trials with ... repetitious witnesses and evidence."

Meanwhile, an attorney for Lyons on Tuesday described Lyons' troubles as "Negro folks' mess" and urged members of the National Baptist Convention USA to unite behind their president.

"Jews do it very well. They don't split. They stick (together). ... They stick," Grady Irvin Jr. told delegates at the NBC meeting in Kansas City, Mo. "White folks stick. That is why you was out in those fields all those years. They stick."

On Thursday, the convention will take up a collection for the defense of Lyons and convention meeting planner Brenda Harris. The two acknowledged Monday they had an "improper" relationship in 1995-97.

Federal prosecutors say Lyons, Harris and former NBC employee Bernice Edwards used the convention as a front to steal millions of dollars from big corporations. Lyons and Edwards face similar charges in state court.

Irvin said the sum Lyons is accused of stealing is small compared to the money Kansas City will make from the convention.

"I have got to get ready for a trial over $3-million," he said. "Fifteen-million dollars is what Kansas City will get. ... We're talking about 3-million in three years. Wasn't anything illegal about it."

In his memorandum, Kunz said prosecutors can't easily break down their case because most of the alleged crimes are related to others. For example, Kunz wrote, Lyons and Edwards used money they extorted from the Loewen Group (count 14 of the indictment) to make a down payment on a home in Tierra Verde in southern Pinellas County. (counts 18 and 19).

Kunz said the government will prosecute Lyons on all 54 counts even if it has to do so in separate trials.

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