The testimony portion of the federal fraud trial against a now-defunct military contractor and his company concluded Friday with only one witness for the defense – the company’s former CEO, also the defendant.
Though prosecutors produced more than a week of testimony, William Whyte, former CEO and owner of the now-defunct Armet Armored Vehicles, concluded his defense after nearly two days.
The last day of testimony also saw Roanoke-based defense attorney Justin Lugar renew his motion from Tuesday for an acquittal on all criminal charges, arguing that the U.S. Government did not have the power to sue Whyte and Armet for not delivering all the the 32 armored SUV’s as promised in a signed contract.
In that argument, he said that even though all of the contract-review officers were U.S. military officers, and the check for the vehicles was paid by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the contract was truly with the Iraq-based Multinational Security Transition Command, which included all the coalition forces working to rebuild the country.
U.S. District Court Judge Jackson L. Kiser has yet to rule on the renewed motion and might make a decision when trial resumes Monday. After that, both the prosecution and the defense will offer closing arguments and the jury will then go behind closed doors for deliberation.
Throughout Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Carlton’s cross examination Friday, Whyte kept using phrases such as “your government” and “your country,” almost in contradiction to Lugar’s argument that only the group of coalition forces, and not the U.S. government, could level the fraud charges.
When asked if he meant the United States, Whyte said yes, which may have blown apart the defense’s argument.
Federal prosecutors called their first witness in the case on Sept. 25 in an attempt to prove that Whyte and the company are guilty of three counts of major fraud against the government, four counts of wire fraud, and three counts of false or fraudulent claims.
The Armet company once had a manufacturing plant in Danville and was headquartered in Ontario, Canada, where Whyte lives.
Whyte, on Friday, also tried to disagree with the contract’s language on undercarriage protection, which was one of the major points made throughout the prosecution’s case.
Prosecutors aimed to prove that the handful of vehicles that Armet did deliver would not withstand blasts by IED’s. Yet Whyte argued that complete blast protection was not part of the deal.
“ We offered floor protection, not the undercarriage,” Whyte said during his cross-examination. “As far as I’m concerned, we have only protected the floor, not the wheels or oil pans.”
Disabled wheels and an emptied oil pan would leave soldiers stranded following an explosion.
The kind of protection needed to shield the oil pan and tires from damage by explosives, he said, was impossible in anything less than a tank.
The only thing that Armet could protect was “the floor, always the floor,” he testified.
However, the proposal that Whyte drafted in March included the exact same language as the final contract for the undelivered armored trucks.
And prosecution evidence from earlier in the trial included a proposal written by Whyte that mentioned undercarriage protection.
In a curious statement by Whyte regarding the contract his company signed promising to deliver the vehicles, he seems to have testified against his own interests.
“ Armet did not live up to its end of the bargain,” Whyte said.