LOCK HAVEN - Was former Clinton County Commissioner a compliant dupe, victimized by a corrupt YMCA executive director? Or was he a willing and greedy co-conspirator in a scheme to defraud the local YMCA and a special Elks grant for children?
Gullible or greedy ... Those were the two possibilities presented in opening statements Monday by the defense and prosecution in the case of the Commonwealth Vs. Adam C. Coleman.
A jury of eight women and six men started to listen to evidence at 8 a.m. Adam Coleman was charged with theft and conspiracy last year in the disappearance of funds from a Lock Haven YMCA account and a special Elks grant for children.
The trial will conclude with closing arguments and the judge's charge this morning and then the jury will begin deliberations.
"This is all about selfishness," state Deputy Attorney General Clarke Madden said. "This is theft and no different from an old fashioned stick-up. Adam Coleman stole from the Elks Foundation as a local Exalted Leader of the Elks. He and his partner pocketed the money ... They said the grant was for an after-school fitness program. Documents and reports received from the Jersey Shore State Bank show the defendant and Clark were co-signers of the grant account and both had to sign checks to withdraw money from that account ... I'm going to show you how to follow the money."
The prosecution claims Coleman and Clark stole funds from the YMCA and Elks account, and Mr. Coleman's mother, Kim Coleman attempted to cover up her son's involvement in the crimes.
Adam Coleman is accused of conspiring with Clark in some of the thefts, including the fabrication of an invoice for $1,465 in landscaping work paid by the YMCA to Coleman's Landscaping, and emptying $5,300 from a special Elks grant account for an after-school program at the YMCA that never happened.
Madden presented more than 40 individual images onto a large screen representing check receipts, bills, invoices, signed documents and agreements all of which he said represented a conspiracy between Clark and Coleman to steal funds.
He bolstered that argument by having Clark describe each document and establish a time line of events, all the while implicating Coleman in what he described simply as the "YMCA theft" and the "Elks theft."
As for the defense, Madden said in his opening statements that the defendant's position could be reduced to one sentence - "It's everybody's fault but mine ... but I want you to listen for the selfish refrain."
Coleman's attorney, Robert Englert, said, "The only thing Adam Coleman is guilty of is being gullible.
Englert said Coleman needed money to pay a $1,455 bill to the Clinton County Club, and Clark approached him with a "loan." Clark offered the money illegally from YMCA funds, received $1,000 repayment from Coleman and pocketed the money, without returning the cash to the YMCA.
"There was no intent to deprive the YMCA," Englert said. "A loan is not an intent to deprive."
As for the Elks account, Englert said, both men were signatories on the account because Coleman was the local Exalted Ruler, and was required to be a part of that administrative process.
"Adam knew nothing about those checks until Clark told him the money was gone," Englert said.
"He was taken ... he made a mistake. But being gullible and making mistakes are not crimes."
Englert also challenged Clark's credibility even before Clark took the stand. In his opening statement, he suggested that Clark had received a sweet deal from the commonwealth in exchange for his testimony, and implicated Coleman in order "to save himself."
Madden said, "Mr. Coleman and Mr. Clark conspired to steal funds and Coleman used them to pay a delinquent country club bill."
Amid the controversy attached to the filing of those criminal charges, Coleman lost his bid for re-election to the county's highest government position last November, having served one four-year term.
Now he stands to lose much more.
The key prosecution witness was also its first, Jeremiah Clark. Clark testified almost the entire morning as he fielded questions from Madden and Englert.
If there's one thing both sides agree on, it's that Clark was the big player in the misappropriation of funds. Clark pleaded guilty to a four-year criminal spree that netted him some $133,000 in cash, and is serving an 11.5- to 23-month sentence at the Clinton County Correctional Facility.
In May, Kim Coleman, was sentenced to 20 days to 23 months in prison. She served 20 days.