Bribe Case with Houston Ties Ends In Mistrial

Dan Feldstein, Houston Chronicle, July 6

A Cleveland, Ohio, judge declared a mistrial Tuesday after a jury deadlocked on most bribery charges against a man from whom two former Houston officials have admitted taking cash and gifts.

U.S. District Judge James Gwin set a retrial for Aug. 8 in Akron, about an hour south of Cleveland. Prosecutors and defense attorneys spent the day interviewing jurors about exactly what had happened during nearly a week of deliberations.

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The jury acquitted Cleveland entrepreneur Nate Gray on four counts relating to alleged bribery of former East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor, who was convicted last year of racketeering and extortion.

But jurors were stuck on more than 40 other counts, including charges related to Houston.

They also deadlocked on charges against a Cleveland City Council member and a New Orleans businessman.

!nategray.jpg!
Nate Gray.

Some jurors told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that a single juror had held out against conviction in many of the charges against Gray. Prosecutors had asked to have that juror removed during the trial when allegations were passed to the judge that she knew friends of the defendants.

The judge declined. She was the lone black juror in a trial of three black defendants.

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Monique McGilbra, who served as director of building services to former Houston Mayor Lee Brown, and Oliver Spellman, who served as Brown’s chief of staff, have pleaded guilty to bribery-related charges involving Gray.

In Gray’s trial, prosecutors played tapes of wiretapped phone conversations in which Gray talked about the gifts he gave McGilbra including a Super Bowl weekend. He also was recorded saying that she was becoming so expensive that what he was getting in return might not be worth it.

Prosecutors flew a Reliant Energy executive to Cleveland to testify that the only reason Reliant had included Gray’s client, Honeywell, on a bid for city business was because McGilbra told them to.

And they brought in McGilbra herself, who testified that she took gifts from Gray and Honeywell and made decisions benefiting Honeywell in return.

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