Prosecution begins Jinwright cross-exam

Prosecution begins Jinwright cross-exam

Bishop Anthony Jinwright (center)

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by Eric Frazier / Charlotte Observer

Charlotte Observer

Posted on April 29, 2010 at 10:28 AM

Updated Thursday, Apr 29 at 10:34 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- All day Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Brown listened as Bishop Anthony Jinwright, the man he's prosecuting on tax evasion and fraud charges, described himself to jurors as a busy preacher who had simply made honest mistakes on his tax returns.

But just after 5:30 p.m., with the court day nearing a close, the prosecutor got his first chance to question Jinwright.

And Brown pounced, launching his cross-examination so aggressively that U.S. District Judge Frank Whitney had to ask him to lower his voice.

Over repeated objections from defense attorneys, Brown pelted the 53-year-old preacher with a nearly 30-minute barrage of accusatory questions.

Earlier Wednesday, Jinwright had testified that he spent so much time ministering the Gospel that he neglected his church's finances and his personal tax obligations.

The prosecution believes Jinwright and his wife, Harriet, failed to report about $1.8 million in income from their church, Greater Salem City of God, from 2002 to 2007.

Prosecutors allege the couple enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, even as their church struggled financially.

"You were so busy doing the Lord's work," Brown said. "But you found time to lease a 2000 Mercedes."

Brown went on to remind jurors of other luxury vehicles the couple drove: a Bentley GT, a Maybach 57 and a Rolls-Royce Phantom. The indictment says the cars are worth $175,232, $244,182 and $352,500, respectively.

Brown continued: "You weren't doing God's work when you purchased that $1.8 million house, were you?"

"Yes, I was," replied Jinwright, who had testified earlier that he used his home to entertain visiting pastors.

Jinwright had also told jurors he lived in Cornelius, but Brown suggested the preacher was misleading jurors because both houses the couple has lived in in recent years are on Lake Norman's waterfront.

Defense attorneys objected that the prosecutor was being argumentative, but the judge allowed him to continue. "Just tone it down," he cautioned.

On Tuesday, Jinwright testified that he didn't have any training in accounting. But during Wednesday's cross-exam, Brown showed Jinwright records from the preacher's days in mortuary school.

"You had a year of accounting, didn't you?" Brown asked.

"Yes."

"So your answers ... yesterday weren't true, were they?"

"Yes, they were," Jinwright replied. "That's accounting pertaining to funeral services. It's not the same thing as pertaining to the public arena."

Jinwright also has testified that he didn't know where the income levels attributed to him on car lease applications came from. Prosecutors say the applications showed much higher income than the couple reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

The prosecutor reminded him that car dealership employees have testified that the income figures on the applications came from Jinwright himself - including one that said he made $100,000 a month.

Jinwright resisted initially, but under persistent questioning said that he had given those figures in several instances.

Jinwright will return to the witness stand today. Lawyers said the case could go to the jury on Monday.

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