Ex-airline worker calls tickets ‘easy money'

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Ex-airline worker calls tickets ‘easy money'

Postby fed up in SA » 19 Aug 2009, Wed 8:15 pm

By Guillermo Contreras - Express-News The woman who started one of the biggest scandals at the Bexar County courthouse in recent memory took the stand Tuesday in federal court, telling jurors that she stole 5,600 tickets from Southwest Airlines to sell because “it was easy money.”

The scheme ex-Southwest employee Althea Jackson hatched with her husband, former Bexar bailiff James Jackson, involved selling most of the tickets for $120 each. When investigators caught on in 2005, it turned out some of the buyers, much to their embarrassment, were public officials.

Althea Jackson was the lone government witness during the first full day of testimony in the trial of five people — three of them law officers at the time — out of 11 initially charged with wire fraud for allegedly distributing hundreds of the tickets bought from the Jacksons. Besides the Jacksons, who were sentenced to 30 months each, four others have pleaded guilty.

“You can call it greed,” Althea Jackson testified as she was repeatedly grilled by five defense lawyers who often shredded her testimony to pieces.

During opening arguments, Mark Stevens, lawyer for former SBC (now AT&T) employee Deborah Robinson, showed jurors a Power Point presentation called “Who flew on the tickets?” It included photos of County Court judges Monica Guerrero and Karen Crouch; Bexar magistrate judge Ernie Glenn, District Attorney Susan Reed and District Clerk Margaret Montemayor.

“If these people, trained in the law, flew on the tickets and didn't think there was anything wrong with them, why (wouldn't) Deborah Robinson?” Stevens asked. He argued that the officials rightly were not charged, and that no one other than the Jacksons should have been indicted.

Stevens has subpoenaed Reed as a witness, while his fellow defense attorneys have subpoenaed other high-profile players in the Bexar criminal justice system. If called to testify, those witnesses are likely to be used to argue that James Jackson misled people into thinking the tickets were legitimate because his wife got them as “a high-level executive for Southwest.” Althea Jackson resigned in September 2005, just as the airline learned that the tickets were being sold within SBC.

Althea Jackson told jurors that beginning in 2002, she sold 300 to 400 tickets each to defendants Mattie Epperson (James Jackson's cousin) and Robinson, who were co-workers at SBC. Althea Jackson also testified that she sold up to 700 tickets to Houston music promoter Lance Williams, whom she knew from a previous radio job, and his buddy, David Anderson III. Both have pleaded guilty.

Althea Jackson said she told her buyers that she was not supposed to have the tickets and, if they were questioned by Southwest, to never say the tickets were purchased. Instead, she said they should respond that they got the tickets because they were inconvenienced on a flight or assisted during a flight, or the airline lost their luggage.

She said she didn't know former sheriff's deputy Mark Kedrowski, suspended bailiff Pedro Martinez Jr. or Mark Gudanowski, who was Reed's driver and bodyguard for nearly seven years before resigning in February. The three men are accused of buying at least 50 tickets, while Gudanowski was portrayed by prosecutor Bill Baumann as being a “heavy user” of the tickets who bought 100 tickets over three years. All deny the allegations.
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Postby fed up in SA » 19 Aug 2009, Wed 8:30 pm

These airline tickets, called "green passes", are given to passengers who have been inconvenienced or have responded to on-flight emergencies. They are also donated to charity. "Not for resale" is clearly stated on the tickets. So DA Susan Reed has a law degree but doesn't know what that means? Total BS. She should be prosecuted herself as well as the judges involved.
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Postby fed up in SA » 20 Aug 2009, Thu 4:40 pm

By Guillermo Contreras - Express-News Former Bexar County court bailiff James Jackson testified Thursday that he gave a cover story to every single person who bought stolen Southwest Airlines tickets directly from him, including a judge and a former county courts administrator.

The stunning revelation that at least one public official was tipped off to the tickets' illegitimacy came at the federal trial of five people accused of buying several of the tickets from Jackson and his wife, former Southwest administrative aide Althea Jackson.

Althea, on the stand earlier this week, admitted stealing 5,600 of so-called “green passes” from the airline between 2002 and 2005. She and her husband, the prosecution's star witnesses, have pleaded guilty and testified that they sold most of the tickets at $120 each.

According to his testimony, James Jackson, who was bailiff of County Court No. 7 Judge Monica Guerrero, was Southwest's unauthorized hub for people wishing to get in on a good flight deal.

The stolen tickets are normally given by the airline as goodwill to customers who are inconvenienced or help out in flight emergencies. The airline also gives them to charities to auction and to other companies in exchange for promoting Southwest, officials of the airline testified Wednesday. The officials claimed that they are not to be sold by employees or anyone else, and if someone bought them, the tickets could be confiscated and the person denied boarding unless they purchase a ticket directly from the airline.

The Jacksons testified they gave their buyers a cover story: If the airline asked how they got the tickets, never say that they bought the tickets. Instead, the buyers were instructed to say the airline gave them the tickets because they had been inconvenienced.

During questioning by defense lawyer Pat Moran on Thursday, James Jackson admitted there were many other people he gave or sold tickets to that he had never named during the investigation by a multiagency task force led by the Secret Service.

Moran, attorney for defendant Mark Kedrowski, a former Bexar sheriff's deputy who was also a bailiff, pressed Jackson to tell him the names.

After Jackson refused several times, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia stepped in and ordered Jackson to answer.

Jackson, stirring in his seat, then rattled off some names, and confirmed some only as Moran asked about them — Jackson's best friend Gary Johnson; Jackson's father Andrew Jackson; sheriff's deputies; Joyce McClay, a clerk for Judge Sharon McRae; and former county courts administrator Joan Pedrotti.

Who else? Moran asked.

“I could be here all day,” Jackson replied.

How many bought directly from you? the judge asked.

Ten, Jackson answered.

Given and sold? Moran asked.

Garcia asked Jackson if the people he named obtained fewer than four or five tickets.

Yes, Jackson answered.

Did anyone get 25, 50 or more? Garcia asked.

Jackson answered Terry Loper, who was a bailiff at the time.

Moran asked Jackson if he also gave Guerrero the instruction related to being inconvenienced by the airline.

“Yes,” Jackson answered.

“You gave the judge the instructions to lie?” Moran asked.

“Yes,” Jackson answered.

Guerrero and Pedrotti are the only officials Jackson, so far, has said got tickets directly from him.

Guerrero was not immediately available for comment.

Jackson reiterated on the stand that he gave the instructions to everyone he dealt with one-on-one.

Asked if he really believed the buyers would follow the purported instructions, Jackson responded: “I expected everyone to carry it out.”

Why give them the instruction in the first place? Moran queried.

“To save them the embarrassment in case they were not allowed on the flight and for my wife's job,” Jackson replied, meaning he did not want his wife to lose her job.

Jackson even admitted selling tickets to a sheriff's deputy who was assigned to the federal task force investigating the stolen-tickets case. That deputy, according to testimony, even showed up to help serve a search warrant at the Jacksons' home in December 2005 before he was removed from the squad.

During questioning by defense lawyer Alex Scharff, Jackson rattled off seven more buyers. Garcia ordered Jackson to write out the names of all his buyers during a break in the trial. None of the people Jackson named Thursday have been charged.

The revelations caused a stir among some trial observers.

Several people named by Jackson have been subpoenaed by the lawyers for the five defendants on trial and are expected to rebut his testimony by saying that he never gave them instructions to lie to Southwest.

Additionally, Jackson testified that he never directly said that the tickets were stolen or illegitimately obtained, but that he assumed the buyers knew given his instructions. And, he said, people who came to him — usually at his job post in County Court 7 — should have known there was something fishy because the tickets were not being issued directly from Southwest to the requestor.

“If you heard that I was the person who had Southwest tickets, that should have raised a red flag,” Jackson said. “That would apply to anyone” who came to Jackson.

Jackson, meanwhile, still has to undergo questioning from four more defense lawyers, all eager to prove their clients innocent of charges related to wire fraud.

The Jacksons, who were sentenced to 30 months in prison in November for pleading guilty to wire fraud charges, were given immunity to testify in front of a federal grand jury in November.

Their testimony resulted in an indictment of 10 people, five of whom pleaded guilty before trial. Those people admitted not only buying numerous tickets from the Jacksons, but also to reselling them.
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Postby fed up in SA » 21 Aug 2009, Fri 4:26 pm

By Guillermo Contreras - Express-News Ex-Bexar County court bailiff James Jackson claimed Friday that County Court-at-Law No. 7 Judge Monica Guerrero obtained six stolen Southwest Airlines tickets from him, four more than she had previously disclosed.

In a list Jackson provided Friday during the federal trial of five people charged with buying numerous tickets, Jackson also identified Associate Juvenile Court Judge Pat Garza as having obtained a ticket from him.

By Jackson's testimony, the two judges have now been linked to seven of the 5,600 tickets that Jackson's wife, former airline employee Althea Jackson, stole from the airline. The Jacksons said they sold most of them for $120 each between 2002 and 2005.

The list, read Friday by U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia to defense lawyers outside the presence of the jury, also has more than 20 other names of sheriff's deputies and personnel in the county's adult and juvenile justice system, as well as friends and relatives of the Jacksons.

The list said Guerrero got six tickets from Jackson. In an interview in February 2008, she told the Express-News that Jackson gave her two tickets as a Christmas gift. She said she would not have accepted them if she'd known they “had any taint on them.”

Through a county court staff attorney, Guerrero said she could not comment on the testimony because judicial rules bar her from doing so and because she is likely to be a witness in the trial.

Garza left court early Friday and could not be reached for comment. The list did not specify whether Guerrero and Garza bought the tickets, and Jackson was not asked before leaving the stand.

Jackson ended his third day of testimony Friday by recanting a previous statement that is critical, at least in the case of one of the defendants on trial, Mark Gudanowski, an ex-bailiff who is also the former driver and bodyguard of District Attorney Susan Reed. Gudanowski innocently obtained tickets for Reed from Jackson, Gudanowski's lawyer, Mike McCrum, said in opening arguments.

In one of piece of evidence defense lawyers say they obtained from federal prosecutors this week, Jackson told agents early in the case that he “never did” instruct Gudanowski to lie to Southwest about where he got the tickets.

The so-called “instruction” involved telling Southwest, if asked, that the tickets were issued free by the airline because the holder was inconvenienced. Purchasers were told to never say they bought the tickets, Jackson claimed.

Given the new evidence, Jackson was asked, did he still stand by his answer that he had given everyone the instruction?

“In light of yesterday, OK, there may have been one person I didn't give the instruction to, but to the best of my ability, I instructed everybody,” Jackson testified Friday.

Jackson also said he never told buyers that the tickets were stolen or illegitimate, but assumed they knew based on the instructions he gave.

On Thursday, defense lawyers asked Jackson to name other people who obtained tickets directly from him to find out if those people were ever given the instruction. Jackson initially refused, and Garcia ordered him to put the list together.

Garcia on Friday limited the defense lawyers' questioning of Jackson about the people on the list.

Lawyers are expected to subpoena some of them as witnesses in the trial, which continues next week. Guerrero is already under subpoena, as are Reed, and other high-profile people who did business in the courthouse at the time Jackson was selling the tickets.

Neither his testimony, nor his wife's earlier this week, make clear who else got hundreds of tickets that are unaccounted for.
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Postby fed up in SA » 22 Aug 2009, Sat 12:28 am

Let me inform you of the big players in this scheme. Susan Reed, DA of Bexar County, is a no-holds-barred DA.She is tough on DWI cases but she just lost her driver because of this mess. She is a known alcoholic, and right now she is the joke of the town. Ironic? I think so. She also sprung her son's friend out of jail with a PR bond for bringing a firearm into the airport. Two hours of jail time, who gets that? All of these players had authority, badges, power to imprison people at the "Justice Center". I hope the feds take a long look at this list and realize all the lies. If they do, the county courthouse will be half empty! Stay tuned! :wink:
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Postby fed up in SA » 22 Aug 2009, Sat 12:48 am

Monica Guerrero has had a hard time keeping bailiffs. The bailiff before Jackson was convicted of buying steriods while on duty. I wonder if Monica got a taste.
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Postby fed up in SA » 24 Aug 2009, Mon 11:31 pm

By Guillermo Contreras - Express-News A federal agent testified Monday that the former driver of Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed bought 20 to 30 stolen Southwest Airlines tickets from a former court bailiff, fewer than previously claimed.

Federal authorities have alleged that Reed's ex-driver, Mark Gudanowski, bought 50 or more tickets, but Gudanowski's lawyer, Mike McCrum argued that prosecutors pumped up the number so Gudanowski would be among those indicted.

Grand jury testimony shows the feds charged 10 people that they believed bought at least 50 tickets because those “brokers” would have known the tickets were illegitimate. Five pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy, and Gudanowski and four others are on trial.

The tickets were sold to dozens of people at the courthouse or elsewhere by ex-bailiff James Jackson and his wife, former Southwest employee Althea Jackson, who stole 5,600 of them. The Jacksons usually sold the tickets for $120 each.

Southwest officials testified that the tickets are reserved for inconvenienced customers and are not to be sold by anyone, although Southwest also gives them to charities that auction them.

The Jacksons testified last week in the trial that they instructed buyers on a cover story: Never say they bought the tickets. Instead, the holders were to say they got the tickets because they were inconvenienced during a flight. They said they expected buyers to pass on the instructions if the tickets were resold.

Secret Service agent Jarret Palmieri told jurors that Gudanowski told agents in December 2005 that he bought about 100 tickets and admitted that Jackson gave him the cover story. The agent said Gudanowski also admitted that he sold some of the tickets for a profit.

But a second statement Gudanowski submitted a month later said he never made a profit on the tickets. That statement named several people Gudanowski had provided the tickets to, including three to Reed, and one each to Reed's first assistant, Cliff Herberg, and Assistant District Attorney Bill Pennington.

Gudanowski disputes that Jackson ever gave him instructions to lie to Southwest, and Palmieri admitted that he did not interview any ticket recipient who said Gudanowski passed on the alleged cover story. Palmieri also admitted that Gudanowski bought no more than 20 to 30 tickets.
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Postby fed up in SA » 25 Aug 2009, Tue 5:28 pm

By Guillermo Contreras - Express-News The line of people called in for questioning in 2006 at the Secret Service offices was a sign that something wasn't quite right with the Southwest Airlines tickets that originated from a Bexar County court bailiff and his wife.

But few, if any, thought much of the fact that the tickets came from the woman — a Southwest employee at the time — and not directly from the airline itself.

Even the cops. Three of them with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office and the San Antonio Police Department testified Tuesday during the federal trial delving into 5,600 stolen Southwest Airlines tickets.

Already in its second week, the trial has revealed how far the scheme hatched by ex-bailiff James Jackson and his wife, Althea, who stole the tickets, stretched. The pair testified last week that they sold most for $120 each, and instructed buyers that if questioned, to never say they bought the tickets, but rather got them for being inconvenienced.

“In hindsight, after seeing how big it had become ... with all the guys there for questioning, I probably should have seen something,” sheriff's deputy Dan Tijerina, a witness for the government, testified.

Tijerina said he bought a ticket from then-fellow deputy Mark Kedrowski, one of five alleged “brokers” on trial, for $100 to $120, and then went straight to the courthouse source, James Jackson, for more.

During his transaction with Kedrowski, Tijerina said, Kedrowski instructed him to tell Southwest agents something that has become a central part of the trial.

“In case you're asked (about the origin of the ticket), just say you were bumped,” Tijerina quoted Kedrowski as saying. “It was just in passing. It wasn't like in preparation, like they're going to question you. It was if they ask.”

But Tijerina said he thought of the deal as a favor, since he knew Kedrowski for nearly 17 years and believed him to be a friend.

Tijerina testified that he didn't buy any more tickets from Kedrowski, but did get six to seven more tickets from Jackson at $100 to $120 each. All of the tickets were used for trips by him and his relatives to Las Vegas.

Did you later realize that Kedrowski told you to lie to Southwest? prosecutor Tom Moore asked.

“Yeah, but I didn't take it to mean that anything was stolen,” Tijerina said. “I thought it (the instruction) was more along the administrative lines.”

San Antonio police officer Anthony Hill, and his wife, Linda, who is now retired from the force, also said they did not know the tickets were stolen.

Both testified for the government and said that they bought tickets from Kedrowski after learning he was pitching them as surplus from a Southwest employee.

Linda Hill, now an investigator with Child Protective Services, testified that she bought two for $300 total, but had concerns that with the tickets, she might get bumped.

She testified that Kedrowski told her, “You'll be assured a seat with these tickets.”

She also said Kedrowski told her that if Southwest asked, “to not say they were purchased, to say that they were a gift from someone who may have worked for (Southwest).”

Anthony Hill testified that Kedrowski offered him the tickets, and that Hill called the airline before buying.

A Southwest representative told him, “They're OK. They're ours. They give them to us to do what we want with them. We're not supposed to sell them,” Anthony Hill testified.

Nonetheless, two months later, he called Kedrowski and paid him $350 for two tickets, Hill testified.
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Postby fed up in SA » 26 Aug 2009, Wed 9:40 pm

By Guillermo Contreras - Express-News What happens in Las Vegas may stay in Vegas, but how you got there apparently did not. At least not at the Bexar County courthouse.

Between 2002 and 2005, courthouse regulars took trips to Sin City and elsewhere — girls' getaways, guys' romps and personal or business trips to several other cities that Southwest Airlines flies.

As people around the courthouse heard how little was paid for airfare — $120 per roundtrip ticket — demand spread like wildfire, according to testimony in the federal trial dealing with 5,600 tickets stolen from Southwest by one of its former employees, Althea Jackson.

Soon, more people were going to a pair of courthouse sources for tickets, then-sheriff's deputy Mark Kedrowski, who ran a travel agency on the side, and the main ticket provider, Jackson's husband, ex-bailiff James Jackson. Five alleged brokers, including Kedrowski, are on trial on charges related to wire fraud.

Not many questioned where the tickets came from, despite some testifying that they were given variations of an instruction that included telling Southwest, if asked, that the ticketholders never purchased the tickets but got them for being inconvenienced.

Most only cared that it was a good deal, according to testimony.

Bexar Precinct 3 Constable Mark Vojvodich, Deputy Chad Chapman and court reporter Lisa Ramos all got in on it. Vojvodich testified he bought 30 tickets, Chapman said he got 20, and Ramos said she bought six from Kedrowski.

The three testified that they were not given instructions on the tickets, but thought they were a bargain.

“We like to travel and it sounded like a good deal,” Ramos testified Wednesday, referring to herself and her husband, Mike Ramos.

She said she twice bought tickets in 2004 to Las Vegas for herself, then-county courts administrator Joan Pedrotti and Joyce McClay, court coordinator for state District Judge Sharon McRae.

Lisa Ramos said she took two more trips in 2005 to Las Vegas, once in July of that year with her husband with tickets obtained from Kedrowski, and another one in October of that year with Pedrotti and several other friends. Ramos testified that either Pedrotti or McClay bought the ticket for her for the October 2005 trip from James Jackson.

In other testimony Wednesday, Meenu Walters, who works in the juvenile section of the Bexar County district attorney's office, told jurors she sensed something funny with the tickets.

Walters testified that she became interested in buying some tickets for relatives around Thanksgiving 2004 from Kedrowski after he offered her discounted tickets.

Do they have blackout dates? Walters testified, recalling what she asked Kedrowski over the phone.

No, Kedrowski assured her.

After nearly 10 minutes of the conversation, she was going to buy the tickets until Kedrowski sprang on Walters what she called “the catch.”

According to Walters, Kedrowski told her that if Southwest asked about the origin of the tickets, “To just say you were upset with a flight and that you weren't satisfied. They compensate their customers with these.”

She testified that she asked Kedrowski why she should say that, and he replied: “It's no big deal. I've had lots of judges and prosecutors buy tickets from me. Everybody's saying that and it's working.”

But that made her uneasy, Walters testified, and told Kedrowski she'd get back to him.

You knew he was telling you to lie? prosecutor Tom Moore asked.

“Sort of. It was just sort of an afterthought that I didn't think, ‘Wow, Mark is telling me to lie.' My husband told me it was a lie. I got mad at him and said why are you questioning the integrity of a friend, who's a law enforcement officer. He said, ‘But he's telling you to lie.'”

In the end, Walters did not buy tickets from Kedrowski. Instead, her relatives paid full price for their tickets, Walters testified.

On Thursday, high-profile figures in the county justice system are expected to be called as witnesses, including First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg, (for the government) and County Court-at-Law No. 7 Judge Monica Guerrero (a defense witness for defendant Kedrowski).

Last week, James Jackson, who was Guerrero's bailiff, testified that he sold or gave her six tickets, four more than she had previously disclosed. Jackson also testified that he gave her instructions to lie about how she obtained the tickets.
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Postby fed up in SA » 29 Aug 2009, Sat 4:54 pm

By Guillermo Contreras - Express-News With the State Commission on Judicial Conduct monitoring a high-profile trial regarding stolen Southwest Airlines tickets, County Court-at-Law No. 7 Judge Monica Guerrero testified Thursday that she obtained eight of them from her former bailiff, but denied he gave her instructions to lie.

Guerrero was one of four luminaries to testify Thursday in a federal trial regarding 5,600 tickets that were stolen from the airline — most of them resold in San Antonio and Houston for $120 each — by Guerrero's ex-bailiff and his wife, a former Southwest employee.

Shortly after the prosecution rested its case Thursday, Guerrero was called as a witness for one of five alleged “brokers” on trial.

One of the prosecution's star witnesses, Guerrero's former Bailiff James Jackson, testified last week — while members of the commission were in San Antonio for an unrelated hearing — that he'd sold or given Guerrero six tickets and told her to lie about them.

“Absolutely not,” Guerrero replied Thursday when asked by defense lawyer Pat Moran if she was instructed to give a cover story to Southwest if asked.

Jackson testified last week that, with the exception of one person, he gave all his buyers a similar line: If Southwest asks about the ticket, the holders shouldn't say the tickets were purchased. Instead, they should say the airline gave the tickets to the holders because they were inconvenienced — for lost luggage, for assisting on an in-flight emergency or for being bumped from an earlier flight.

Associate Juvenile Court Judge Pat Garza also testified Thursday that he never obtained or flew on any of the tickets.

Under orders of U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, Jackson produced a list last week that named more than 20 people he sold or gave tickets to. That list said Guerrero obtained six tickets from him and that Garza obtained one.

Guerrero and Garza were subpoenaed by Moran, lawyer for suspended sheriff's Deputy Mark Kedrowski, to rebut Jackson's testimony.

Guerrero said she obtained tickets from Jackson because he conveyed to her that his wife, Althea, was a “high-level executive assistant to the person who runs Southwest or owns it, and because of her job she could get tickets at any time.”

“This guy was a person I trusted my life with, honest to God. He would take a bullet for me,” Guerrero testified about Jackson. “I would have never thought he would lie to me.”

When asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Baumann how many tickets she bought, Guerrero said six, and added that Jackson gave her another two as a Christmas gift.

She testified she traveled on four of the tickets, gave three to a female friend and handed the eighth ticket, which wasn't used, to a Secret Service agent during the criminal investigation.

Guerrero also testified Jackson lied last week in his testimony about her.

In an interview with the San Antonio Express-News in February 2008, Guerrero said she was given two tickets and traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with them, but didn't mention other tickets.

After her testimony Thursday, Guerrero left court flanked by her lawyers Tylden Shaeffer and Kevin Collins. She declined to answer more questions because she said she's still under subpoena.

Sources confirmed the State Commission on Judicial Conduct has been investigating Guerrero over allegations that contractors who did $16,000 worth of work at her former home weren't paid. The commission was in San Antonio earlier this summer interviewing the contractors. And last week, the commission took new interest in Guerrero after learning of Jackson's testimony, and is monitoring the ticket trial.

Seana Willing, executive director of the commission, said she had “no comment” when asked about the commission's inquiries.

In other testimony, former state District Judge Bert Richardson — who didn't fly on any of the stolen tickets — testified that bailiff Pedro “Pete” Martinez Jr., one of the defendants, had a good reputation at the courthouse.

And earlier Thursday, First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg testified he bought one of the tickets to travel to Los Angeles in 2004 from Mark Gudanowski, who was the driver and bodyguard of District Attorney Susan Reed.

Herberg said Gudanowski also obtained a ticket for himself and Reed for that trip, which was to attend the premiere of the movie “National Treasure.”

Herberg said the three were invited by a movie studio as a thank-you because the district attorney's office helped provide security earlier for the screening in San Antonio of “The Alamo.”

Herberg said nothing about the tickets made him or Reed think there was anything wrong with them. He also said he bought the same types of tickets at charity auctions.

“Everything looked logical to us. Southwest didn't say anything when we used them,” Herberg said. “We showed our IDs to (get on the plane). Nobody shows their IDs when they're dealing with stolen property.”

The tickets say “Not for Resale/No Cash Value” on them and Southwest officials testified last week during the trial that the tickets aren't to be sold by anyone. But one official said they are transferable.

Herberg said the language on the tickets is a “limitation of liability ... so if you sell it to a third party, they can't come back to Southwest and say I want a refund.”

He also said the language is for tax exemption when the airline donates the tickets to charity. He said anyone can sell it.

“The benefit of a capitalistic society is if you own property, you can do whatever you want with it,” Herberg said.

The jury is expected to get the case next week.
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Postby fed up in SA » 06 Sep 2009, Sun 7:32 pm

By Guillermo Contreras - Express-News A federal trial surrounding 5,600 tickets stolen from Southwest Airlines has put more than the five defendants charged in the case in the hot seat.

There are judges, prosecutors and other public officials, who have had to defend their integrity after the bailiff and his wife who started the scandal at the Bexar County Courthouse testified that everyone who got tickets from them was given instructions to lie about where they got them.

There are also the bonds forged by courthouse regulars, now frayed because some ticket buyers threw friends into the grease during their turns on the witness stand.

And then there's Southwest, which gives out the tickets freely to charities or trades the passes for advertising plugs from other organizations but says it can't police everyone when the tickets wind up being sold on eBay or Craigslist or in the newspaper classifieds.

For three years, between 2002 and 2005, the airline didn't know its own employee, Althea Jackson, took hundreds of the tickets after managers rubber-stamped her requests for them. They are normally reserved for inconvenienced customers and charity.

Southwest found out in September 2005, when it was alerted by AT&T in San Antonio, where hundreds of them had been sold. A federal probe by the South Texas Regional Task Force found that Jackson and her husband sold most of the 5,600 tickets for $120 each.

With at least one more week of trial left to go — there was a one-week break last week — the 4-year-old case is leaving its mark on more than the five defendants.

“It's going to wreck a lot of people's lives,” noted lawyer F. Alan Futrell, who defended Lance Williams, a St. Gerard High graduate and music promoter. Williams pleaded guilty to buying hundreds of the tickets from ex-bailiff James Jackson.

“It's tearing friends apart. It's got people at each other's throats,” said lawyer Pat Moran, who is defending suspended Bexar sheriff's Deputy Mark Kedrowski, one of the five defendants on trial. “People in the (county) courthouse are afraid. ... They would do anything not to get called in as witnesses.”

For the feds, it is a high-stakes case that seemed dead in 2006 when a federal judge threw out an initial indictment charging the Jacksons and eight others with conspiring to commit access device fraud. After the dismissal, the local U.S. attorney's office went to the Bush administration's Justice Department for permission to revive the case two years later on other charges, previously undisclosed documents show.

In February 2008, the feds got James and Althea Jackson to plead guilty to a different charge, wire fraud. And in October 2008, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General David H. Hennessy signed off on an immunity deal that brought the Jacksons before a federal grand jury in San Antonio.

With no fear of being charged for their own involvement in any other crimes they disclosed before the grand jury, the Jacksons' grand jury testimony resulted in an indictment charging 10 other people. Grand jury transcripts show the local U.S. attorney's office decided to target people believed to have bought at least 50 tickets because it would be easier to try to show culpability at trial.

No public officials or people who bought multiple tickets, but fewer than 50, were charged.

Before the trial began Aug. 17, five of the 10, including Williams, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

But once the Jacksons each took their turns in the witness chair for the trial, their testimony was all but bulletproof. Their stories did not quite match. They could not recall details, misstated dates and quantities of tickets bought from them, were forced to backpedal and argued with defense lawyers who tried to portray them as lying cheats.

James Jackson, for instance, initially claimed he instructed everyone who got tickets from him to say, if asked, that they never bought the tickets but got them from Southwest for being inconvenienced.

But he later flip-flopped, saying he had not given the instruction to Mark Gudanowski, a former driver and bodyguard for District Attorney Susan Reed. Reed got three tickets from Gudanowski after he went to Jackson, according to trial testimony.

Both Jacksons also admitted that they never specifically told anyone that the tickets were stolen but that they assumed that people should have known because of the cover story they passed on.

The five defendants on trial have all claimed that they were also misled by James Jackson into thinking Althea Jackson, an administrative aide at Southwest headquarters in Dallas, was given the tickets by Southwest because she was a high-level employee who commuted frequently between San Antonio and Dallas and got them as bonuses.

“I don't understand what we're doing here,” testified witness Sandie Contreras, the ex-wife of defendant Pedro Martinez Jr. “We were lied to.”

At the center of the case is also whether the disclaimers Southwest puts on the tickets — specifically “Not For Resale/No Cash Value” — is crystal clear.

The language, in part, limits Southwest's liability, preventing a ticket holder from seeking a refund from the airline, testified Pat Edwards, Althea Jackson's former boss at Southwest.

Can the tickets be sold? Edwards and Lisa Anderson, Southwest's director of customer advocacy and communication, both testified that they cannot.

“It's not to be sold by anyone, whether it be an employee of Southwest Airlines or a recipient of the ticket,” Anderson testified.

Can they be bartered or traded for something else? Edwards said yes. Anderson said no.

When asked by Alex Scharff, lawyer for Pedro Martinez Jr., a suspended bailiff, whether selling the tickets was unlawful, Anderson wasn't as plain.

“I can't say if it's illegal or not,” Anderson testified. “It's a violation of Southwest Airlines policies and rules.”

Nonetheless, some court observers opine that the warning signs were there. After all, how many tickets can a Southwest employee get for free?

“If you had any ethics alarm, it should have at least blinked, if it didn't go off,” said lawyer Futrell.

A federal jury resumes hearing the case Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia.
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Postby fed up in SA » 09 Sep 2009, Wed 10:15 pm

By Guillermo Contreras - Express-News Testimony in the Southwest Airlines stolen ticket trial is expected to wind to a close today despite moments on Tuesday when it appeared to veer too far afield.

Lawyers for the five defendants on trial continued trying to poke holes in the government’s case, which alleges that the five knowingly bought at least 50 of the stolen tickets from then-court bailiff James Jackson and resold many of them.

Lawyers for defendants Mark Gudanowski and Mark Kedrowski put on witnesses who testified they bought fewer than 10 tickets but were not given instructions to lie to Southwest about where they got them.

Tuesday’s testimony also delved into a messy situation involving County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, County Magistrate Judge Mike Ramos and former county courts administrator Joan Pedrotti.

Pedrotti and Ramos had been friends, and both bought tickets from Jackson, but Pedrotti’s testimony clashed with that of Ramos’ wife, court reporter Lisa Ramos, and revealed a schism in their friendship.

Called by the government, Lisa Ramos testified two weeks ago that she bought six tickets from then-sheriff’s deputy Mark Kedrowski, one of the five defendants on trial.

But Pedrotti, called by Kedrowski’s lawyer Pat Moran, testified that Mike Ramos bought four of the tickets from James Jackson, relieving Kedrowski of some of the blame.

Pedrotti also testified that she was one of the first people to buy tickets from Jackson, who told her his wife worked for Southwest and could get discount tickets.

Pedrotti said she bought “six or seven” tickets herself and that Jackson never gave her any instructions for a cover story.

Jackson testified three weeks ago that he told all his buyers, except Gudanowski, to never say they bought the tickets but instead got them from Southwest for being inconvenienced.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Baumann asked Pedrotti, now a planner working for Commissioners Court, about the incident involving Adkisson and Mike Ramos.

Pedrotti said acting on Adkisson’s behalf, she called Ramos as part of a series of phone calls to learn why the grandson of one of Adkisson’s constituents was still in jail.

What resulted from her calls, Pedrotti said, was a “misunderstanding” in which Ramos “felt I was pressuring him to get this person out of jail.”
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Postby fed up in SA » 09 Sep 2009, Wed 10:20 pm

To commit a crime, you have to do it 50 times

Scott Stroud - Scott Stroud District Attorney Susan Reed and other public officials who bought stolen Southwest Airlines ticket vouchers from James and Althea Jackson's discount courthouse travel agency are about to put any legal headaches stemming from the case behind them.

That's partly because they don't meet the government's seemingly arbitrary threshold — those who bought or sold at least 50 ticket vouchers. No matter that one of the defendants currently on trial in U.S. District Court doesn't meet it, either.

Reed and other public officials have said they didn't know the tickets were stolen because they weren't given a cover story to tell the airline. Under the law, that means they did nothing wrong.

Incredibly, though, federal prosecutors chose defendants based not so much on whether they knew the vouchers were stolen but on how many they obtained.

In Sunday's Express-News, my colleague Guillermo Contreras, who has covered the lengthy, ongoing trial in U.S. District Court, wrote that grand jury transcripts read at the trial show the U.S. attorney's office set just such a threshold — even as Richard Durbin, chief of the office's criminal division, said a key element was whether the Jacksons told people how to lie.

“We've struggled with this,” he said in the transcript. “We're drawing the lines between crimes here. We're also — to some extent, we're restricted by our evidence. And we have evidence that says that the Jacksons gave these instructions repeatedly to these intermediate sellers.

“We've sort of taken the line of about 50 tickets as being a good level of culpability,” he continued. “And below that, we don't know what all of these resellers necessarily told the end users.”

A few minutes later, he added, “as a practical matter, we can't prosecute everybody for every wrong that they commit.”

That's wonderful news for Reed, who has said she was “duped” into buying three tickets from Mark Gudanowski, a nonlawyer who was her driver and bodyguard and is now a defendant in the trial. She now appears unlikely to testify, further avoiding embarrassment.

It's also good news for, among others, Precinct 3 Constable Mark Vojvodich, who testified he bought 30 tickets; Sheriff's Deputy Chad Chapman, who bought 20; and Bexar County Court-at-Law No. 7 Judge Monica Guerrero, who bought six.

Durbin declined to discuss the case Tuesday, but some of the testimony given at trial has made a mush of his standard.

Gudanowski, for example, obtained “26 that we know of,” according to a Secret Service agent's testimony — well short of Durbin's threshold.

More than likely, though, a decision was made to target those who went too far. That seems reasonable until you return to the notion of “drawing the lines between crimes.”

It's a notion that doesn't do Reed and the others any favors.

What stinks here in the end is not the crime so much as its handling. It feeds the perception that there's a lawyer's-club mentality in which attorneys who should have known the meaning of “Not for Resale/No Cash Value” take a walk while those with no such training pay a price.
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Postby fed up in SA » 12 Sep 2009, Sat 12:51 pm

By Guillermo Contreras - Express-News A federal jury Friday found three of five defendants on trial for buying and selling stolen Southwest Airlines tickets guilty.

Those convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy were suspended Bexar sheriff’s Deputy Mark Kedrowski, suspended Bailiff Pedro Martinez Jr. and Mattie Epperson.

Because of their felony convictions, Kedrowski and Martinez were certain to be terminated and lose their peace officer licenses.

Found not guilty were Mark Gudanowski, the former driver for District Attorney Susan Reed, and Deborah Robinson, Epperson’s former co-worker at SBC.

Those acquitted were overcome with relief, while those convicted were bewildered because they thought the government’s case fell short. All had argued they didn’t know the tickets were stolen.

Jurors declined to speak about their verdicts with reporters, but it was evident they drew the line on a critical piece of information: Whether buyers were instructed to never say they bought the tickets but got them from Southwest for being inconvenienced in some way.

“That is a commonality in the proof that Mark Kedrowski faced, Mattie Epperson faced and Pete Martinez faced that was different in the evidence in the cases of Deborah Robinson and Mark Gudanowski,” said Pat Moran, Kedrowski’s lawyer.

Former Bexar County Court Bailiff James Jackson and his wife, former Southwest administrative aide Althea Jackson, sold most of the tickets for $120 each after Althea stole them between 2002 and 2005.

The Jacksons, though often contradictory, testified they instructed their buyers to not disclose how they obtained the tickets. Instead, the Jacksons testified, they told the buyers to say Southwest gave them the tickets.

James Jackson had claimed he gave all his buyers the instruction, but then admitted he didn’t give it to Gudanowski.

No witnesses who bought tickets from Gudanowski testified that they received the instruction. Likewise for those who said they bought tickets from Robinson.

In the case of Martinez, Kedrowski and Epperson, the government brought witnesses who said they were told some version of the instruction. In Martinez’s case, one buyer testified he sold her six tickets and told her not to use them all at once.

After the verdict, Gudanowski thanked his lawyer, Mike McCrum, and all his supporters.

“Now you know the truth,” Gudanowski said. “I am overwhelmed. This has been hard on me, hard on my family. ... It’s behind me.”

Gudanowski said he planned to seek work again in law enforcement, and McCrum said his client never should have been “indicted in the first place.”

Robinson hugged her lawyer, Mark Stevens, and husband after the verdict.

“I thought there was (reasonable) doubt going around for everybody,” Stevens said. “I’m glad the jury saw the facts in her case and got her out of this mess.”

Martinez’s lawyer, Jeff Mulliner, said he never had been surprised by a verdict until now.

“It seems totally inconsistent,” Mulliner said. “Bexar County has just lost a good deputy.”

Epperson, who’s James Jackson’s cousin and worked at SBC (now AT&T), felt betrayed by her own relative, said her lawyer, Alex Scharff.

“We still strongly believe that James and Althea Jackson were lying to save their own skins and keep from going to prison,” Scharff said.

The government’s witnesses established that 5,600 tickets stolen from the airline and most were sold at the Bexar County Courthouse, at SBC and in Houston. Of the tickets, 700 never were found.

The tickets say “Not for Resale/No Cash Value,” but there was disagreement in testimony about whether the selling and buying of the tickets is a crime.

“It’s our responsibility to air the allegations, and we did that in front of a jury and we’re satisfied with their verdict,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Baumann said.

The Jacksons were sentenced in November to 30 months in prison for wire fraud but have yet to serve time, and prosecutors still could ask for a reduction, depending on how helpful their testimony was.

In December, they got immunity to testify at a grand jury that indicted 10 people. Five of those pleaded guilty before trial and are likely to get probation.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia said sentencing for the three who were convicted would be later this year. Wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud each carry a maximum of 20 years in prison, but guidelines put the potential sentences much lower.

During the trial, James Jackson named buyers who previously had been undisclosed or claimed he sold more to some people than previously reported.

For instance, he testified he sold a ticket in 2002 to retired sheriff’s Deputy Ernie Orgovan, who later was assigned to the Secret Service-led task force that investigated the case.

Moran, Kedrowski’s lawyer, alleged during the trial that Orgovan tipped off Jackson before his house was raided.

On Friday, Orgovan said: “They’re lying. No. 1, I didn’t buy a ticket. No 2, I had nothing to do with the investigation. The only thing I was involved in was look at a passenger list, and they asked me if I recognized any of the names on that list. I also only participated in (the Jacksons’) arrest. That’s the honest to God truth.”
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