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Feds: Collins’ accusations of false testimony are baseless

October 29, 2018 GMT

U.S. prosecutors fired back at Roy Collins’ claims of two witnesses giving false testimony to a federal grand jury hearing evidence in the wire and mail fraud case against the former executive director of Kankakee Valley Park District.

The response was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Urbana to Collins’ motion to withdraw his guilty plea or dismiss the indictment against him.

A hearing will be held at 1 p.m. Nov. 19 in Urbana before Chief Judge of the Central District of Illinois James Shadid.

Collins’ attorney, Gregory T. Mitchell, argued in a motion filed Oct. 5 that Illinois State Police investigator Brad Cosgrove and Kankakee Valley Park District commissioner Dave Skelly gave false testimony to a federal grand jury in May 2016. Skelly is a lieutenant with the Kankakee Police Department.

Skelly went to the state police after receiving information about possible improprieties with Collins and park district equipment and funds.

Collins was charged in September 2016.

He is alleged to have used park district funds and employees to build a pond at his former home in Limestone Township and of taking money from the district’s BBQ Fest in 2014 and 2015.

Collins was a commissioner on the board when he was hired as the executive director in July 2011. In April 2016, the board and Collins agreed to a separation agreement.

A year later, Collins agreed to plead guilty. However, after two days of testimony in his sentencing hearing earlier this year, Mitchell said they were withdrawing the guilty plea.

Mitchell argued the court has the authority to set aside a verdict and order a new trial where the defendant establishes: the prosecution’s case included perjured testimony, the prosecution knew or should have known of the perjury and there is reasonable likelihood that the false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury.

Prosecutors maintain in their response both Cosgrove’s testimony and Skelly’s testimony was truthful and prosecutors did not mislead the grand jury.

“Collins’s allegations ... represent a meritless, last-ditch attempt to avoid responsibility for his extensive theft from the Kankakee Valley Park District and Kankakee Valley Park Foundation,” according to the filing.

Prosecutors said that the accusations by Collins are baseless and no hearing is required.

Instead, sentencing should be imposed on Collins.

Pleaded guilty

According to the latest filing by the U.S., Collins agreed to an open guilty plea on Sept. 5, 2017. As part of that agreement, Collins filed a declaration that acknowledged his guilt on mail and wire fraud charges and admitting additional theft from the KVPD and KPVF.

The U.S. prosecutors argue in their reply to Collins’ motion, the plea and declaration “was knowing and voluntary.”

The motion further states: “Collins does not even attempt to shoulder the burden. he provides no reason justifying the withdrawal of his guilty plea, because none exists.

“First, Collins neither claims nor shows his actual or legal innocence. That is because Collins is not innocent. By his own repeated admissions, both under oath at his change of plea hearing and in his signed plea declaration, Collins is guilty of a wide-ranging scheme to defraud the Kankakee Valley Park District and the Kankakee Valley Park Foundation, which conduct included the mail and wire fraud offenses from the indictment and numerous other thefts.”

“The record reflects that this Court systematically and methodically advised Collins of his rights and addressed” the legal requirements.

“Collins was under oath and was advised any statements he made could later be used against him in future prosecutions. ... Collins further informed this Court that he was satisfied with his defense attorney’s representation and advice.”

Collins was advised of his constitutional rights and said he understood the would waive his rights if the judge accepted his plea of guilty.

Prior to U.S. District Judge Colin Bruce accepting Collins’ guilty plea, prosecutors gave a factual basis supporting the plea.

That included the following:

“Collins confirmed that he had “corruptly received payments from” Shaun Szymborski “in exchange for hiring him as a vendor/facilitator” for Barbecue Fest. This Court further questioned Collins about the factual basis provided by the United States and determined that there was a factual basis for his plea of guilty, a statement with which both defense counsel and the government agreed.

“Finally, this Court addressed Collins personally and determined that his guilty plea was voluntary and did not result from force, threats, or promises.”

Kickback or not

Collins’ motion argues that Cosgrove misled jurors about alleged kickbacks Collins received from Shaun Szymborski, who Collins hired to line up musical acts for park district’s BBQ Fest in 2014 and 2015.

Collins argued Szymborsk said his paying money to Collins was just the way business was done, not a kickback

Prosecutors counter that “Szymborski was embarrassed to use the word “kickback” in front of the grand jury to describe the payments he made to Collins. That squeamishness aside, Szymborski clearly described a situation in which he transmitted kickbacks to Collins.”

After he was hired by Collins in 2014, Szymborski had an agreement with Collins that he would be paid $1,500 per artist booked.

Six months after being hired, Collins said he expected “Szymborski to cut him checks out of the funds Szymborski was paid by the park district. Szymborski said that Collins “would write the check, and he just told Szymborski the terms and what he wanted back.”

“Szymborski, reading a statement he wrote for the FBI, later described the checks to Collins as payment for Collins “including” him in Barbecue Fest. Szymborski also said that he thought this practice was “unethical” but he “really wanted to be a part of the fest.” Szymborski said Collins told him he would still get $1,500 per artist, Collins would “just write the checks so they evened out.”

“Szymborski confirmed that Collins had asked him to tell law enforcement that the $3,000 payment Szymborski made to Collins out of park district funds in 2015 was instead for the guitars he gave Szymborski in late 2015. Szymborski further confirmed that Collins requested that Szymborski “fabricate” a contract regarding Szymborski’s employment “to cover holes in the financial records and ... cover things up.”

Prosecutors argue Cosgrove’s testimony was consistent with Szymborski’s testimony to the grand jury (absent his discomfort with the term “kickback”); it also was in accord with Collins’ own plea declaration.”

During his testimony, Szymborski read a statement he provided the FBI in which he described the checks he wrote to Collins as payment for Collins “including” him in BBQ Fest. Szymborski went on to say he thought the practice was unethical, “but he “really wanted to be a part of the fest.”

Szmyborski testified Collins told him a $3,000 Szymborski made to Collins was for four guitars Collins gave him.

Prosecutors argue that Collins said in his plea declaration that he hired Szymborski to assist with BBQ Fest talent and required Szymborski to return to him $6,000 of $15,000 Collins gave him from the Kankakee Valley Park Foundation for that work. Collins failed to notify the park district and park district foundation of these “corruptly accepted” payments from Szymborski.

Prosecutors used the Merriam-Webster (Dictionary) definition of kickback to argue their case. It defines kickback as “a return of part of a sum received often because of a confidential agreement or coercion.”

Park district meetings

Collins’ motion argued that Skelly falsely testified that the park board had not approved or heard anything as a board member regarding Collins’ improper use of park district equipment and labor to build a pond on his property.

The motion goes on to say Skelly also falsely stated that “Collins was permitted to utilize KVPD resources because of other board members’ inappropriate relationship with Collins.”

Prosecutors argue Collins provides no support Skelly was untruthful.

At grand jury, Skelly explained he received calls in 2015 from “concerned citizens” about the pond and park district employees working on Collins’ property.

Skelly was then asked whether “the board had approved the use of park district equipment or labor to build” the pond.

“Lieutenant Skelly stated that he had not, in his official capacity as a board member, heard anything regarding Collins’ use of park district equipment and labor; it is clear in context that Lieutenant Skelly referred to whether he was notified as a board member before the time of the complaints.

“Lieutenant Skelly’s concerns about the construction projects on Collins’ property were preceded by his suspicions regarding Collins’s apparent appropriation of a park district lawnmower and golf cart.”

Skelly testified he tried to go through the board and tried to talk with Board President Alfred “JJ” Hollist and “got nowhere.” It was then that he contacted state police. “A grand juror then asked Lieutenant Skelly whether the KVPD board “didn’t care much about [Collins’] purchases?”

“Lieutenant Skelly, asked for his opinion, gave it, stating, ‘That was very much the feeling that I got, yes. I ... was chastised for years for trying to ask these questions.’

“A grand juror followed up, asking whether the board could be considered responsible or Collins’ misuse of KVPD resources and funds. Lieutenant Skelly stated that the board had ‘100 percent fiduciary responsibility,’ explaining the board’s indifference by stating that many of them were friends with Collins and had chosen him for the executive director position.

“He further stated that there were ‘a lot of benefits that were handed out to certain board members.’

“The considered opinion of Lieutenant Skelly, a KVPD board member, in response to grand jurors’ questions about board conduct certainly does not amount to false testimony. before the grand jury.

Collins argues that Lieutenant Skelly falsely testified that the Kankakee Park District Board had not approved and that he had heard nothing in his official capacity as a board member regarding Collins’s improper use of park district equipment and labor on his own property. Collins states that Lieutenant Skelly also falsely stated that Collins was permitted to utilize KVPD resources because of other board members’ inappropriate relationship with Collins.

“Collins’ attempts to cast doubt on Lieutenant Skelly’s testimony fail. Collins argues that Lieutenant Skelly was not truthful regarding whether the KVPD board approved his use of equipment and labor. In order to bolster his point, Collins cites two informal “meetings” at which he claims he received permission to use the KVPD resources from the board attorney and some board members.

“Assuming for argument’s sake that Collins’ description of the meetings is accurate (which the United States does not concede), Collins still fails to address the fact that Lieutenant Skelly was not invited to these meetings, notified of their existence, or updated on them after-the fact.

“Lieutenant Skelly is not omniscient. He cannot be expected to know details of meetings that Collins admits Lieutenant Skelly did not attend.

“Collins further fails to address the lack of legitimacy of these meetings. According to Lieutenant Skelly, the board was not able to provide authorization for Collins’s use of the equipment at an off-the-books partial board meeting, about which not all board members were notified.”