Defense, prosecution paint varying Bert Lance portraits
Atlanta — Sitting before six men and six omen jurors is one of President Carter's close friends and former budget director, T. Bertram Lance, on trial here for alleged criminal violation of federal banking laws.
Two starkly contrasting portraits of Mr. Lance were offered by opposing attorneys in opening arguments Jan. 23. First, the deputy chief of the Justice Department's organized crime and racketeering force, Marvin R. Loewy, alleged that over a number of years there has been "a pattern" of illegal use of funds at baks Mr Lance and his three codefendants either headed or were associated with.
Overdrafts (in the range of $30,000 to $225,000) and "insider" loans (in the friends, it is alleged. Mr. Lance repeatedly lied about his net worth in applying for loans, Mr. Loewy contends. All this was part of a "calculated and sophisticated scheme," he alleges.
Proving there was a "pattern" of illegal acts now emerges as the heart of the prosecution's case. If a pattern can be proved, the prosecution hopes this will convince the jury that banking laws set up to protect the public were not violated unknowingly but intentionally. Proof of such intention is needed for the criminal conviction sought.
But Mr. Lance, contends defense attorney Nuck Chilivis, was "too busy" with charitable church and other community activities "to have lied, cheated, or conspired with anybody."
Mr. Lance did make loans without "prudent investigation" of the borrowers credit, but "he knew who he could trust to repay the loans," Mr. Chilivis alleges.
Overdrafts at the Calhoun, Ga., First National Bank, where Mr. Lance served as president and later chairman, were noted several years ago by federal bank examiners. And the bank's "liberal overdraft policies" applied to all bank customers and not just Mr. Lance, Mr. Chivilis alleges.
The prosecution will try to prove that Mr. Lance formed a number of "shell" companies, including Lancelot and The Lance Company to "hide" his debts. (Some of his debts allegedly were transferred to these companies, then not mentioned on his financial liability statements in applying for further loans).
These companies were legitimate and not used illegally, the defense contends. One loan allegedly made by Mr. Lance without proper credit was to his son David for $45,000. Another loan, for $100,000, was allegedly made in the name of Mr. Lance's mother without her knowledge.
The loan to David was fully repaid, Mr. Lance's attorney alleges.
Even if the government proves "every single fact charged in the indictment" that will still not prove there was criminal misapplicaiton of funds, because there was no "intent to inquire the bank," the defense alleges.
Judge Charles Moye Jr., chief judge of the US District Court here, who is hearing the case, said the prosecution need not prove that the banks suffered permanent losses. Even a repaid loan, if made illegally, could be grounds for conviction, he said.