MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) Was it a mistake? An oversight?
Or did Bayou la Batre Mayor Stan Wright know he was doing something illegal when he gave his daughter a sliver of land next to a housing development that was being built for Hurricane Katrina victim.
His daughter, Mary, in turn, sold that sliver of land to the city of Bayou la Batre for 27 thousand dollars... a purchase the city made with FEMA money.
Monday, federal prosecutors began laying out their paper trail of what they call "the land transfer scheme".
Their theory? That Wright's daughter, Mary, needed cash. That Wright gave her the land, which she sold to the city eight days later for about 27 thousand dollars. They claim Mary then wrote he father three checks that totaled 27 thousand dollars.
Prosecutors then put Sherry Atchison on the stand. She writes grants for Volunteers of America, which had been working with the city on the FEMA housing project.
But Atchison said they were kicked off the job, notified by the city's grant writer, Janey Galbraith, that they were no longer needed. That's important, because Galbraith herself was recently convicted of conspiracy in connection with the land deal. Atchison said she even told the mayor at one time the law prevented him from selling the land to the city.
But defense attorney Arthur Madden argued his client did no wrong... that the mayor actually announced at a city council meeting that he wouldn't be voting on the sale because his daughter owned the land.
The trial will continue for days, but the ordeal is already over for another player in this controversy.
Galbraith was hire by the city of Bayou la Batre to solicit grant money from FEMA for the Katrina relief housing project.
She was convicted last year on conspiracy charges connected with the mayor's alleged land deal.
She showed up for the mayor's trial today, subpoenaed by the prosecution to testify.
But that didn't happen.
"I think it's over for Janie," said Vince Kilborne, Galbraith's attorney. "The government has released her form her subpoena, so she has no involvement in Mayor Wright's trial. She's actually going to report to serve her 90 days, she's ready to do that soon. She's looking forward to getting out and getting back to her life."
Kilborne spoke even as Galbraith was getting into an SUV to leave the federal building.
"She's going to pay her debt to society, she's happy to do that, and she's going on with her life, and as far as Janie's concerned, it's over."
But the trial is just beginning for her former boss, who hopes to fair better than her.
Does Galbraith have any opinion about this trial?
"None!" he said, firmly.
The trial resumes Tuesday morning with more witnesses for the prosecution.