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A prosecutor told the jury considering the fate of accused fraudster Marc Sessions Jenson to keep one thing in mind as they began to deliberate his case: The businessman has trouble telling the truth.
"This is a case about deception, not only in what was said, but in what wasn't said," Chief Deputy Utah County Attorney Tim Taylor said during closing arguments in Jenson's trial on Thursday.
The jury broke for the night around 7 p.m., and will continue deliberations Friday.
Taylor contends Jenson on trial for fraud and money laundering duped prospective investors in the failed Mount Holly golf and ski resort near Beaver, either through the "misrepresentation" or "material omission" of facts about his history criminal convictions and bankruptcies, or about the financial and legal challenges the development faced.
"The question for you as our judges in this case … would that have been important?" Taylor said.
Jenson, 54, has pleaded not guilty to four counts each of communications fraud and money laundering, second-degree felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison. As an alternative to fraud, the jury of five men and three women can find Jenson guilty of theft by deception, also a second-degree felony.
The jury began deliberations in the case Thursday afternoon, after hearing 10 days of testimony.
Included among the witnesses were three Colorado businessmen who lost a combined $2.3 million on the planned luxury development, which sought to rival Montana's exclusive Yellowstone Club.
Jenson doesn't deny that investors lost money on the deal, but maintains that the project was "real" and he would have made good on plans for 1,200 luxury homes, private ski facilities and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, if its key financial partner XE Capital had not backed out.
On the stand, an emotional Jenson also testified that disclosing his past was a condition of his participation in Mount Holly placed on him by his financial partners, who limited his role in the development. In talking about his past, Jenson told the jury he often pointed investors to an uncomfortable and by his account error-filled 2007 article in The Salt Lake Tribune that detailed his "litigious life."
Taylor challenged the contention on Thursday and argued that it simply "doesn't make sense" that a person dealing with high-powered millionaires on a daily basis would rush to point out that he was a convicted felon.
And to say the "bright, sophisticated" Jenson held some secondary role in Mount Holly seems like another lie, Taylor told jurors.
Jenson held the title of contract marketing consultant in the Mount Holly organization.
But it was Jenson, Taylor said, who used his "amazing" sales skills to draw in members. Jenson who negotiated contracts. And Jenson who told curious investors the project was "debt free."
"He's an amazing salesman," Taylor said. "This is the face of the Mount Holly Club. Marc Jenson was running the company, regardless of what his title was."
Defense attorney Marcus Mumford countered Taylor's arguments by noting that the investors now claiming fraud were initially eager to get in on the development because they had enthusiastically "caught the vision" of what it could be. Before cutting their checks, each had also signed detailed contracts that included disclaimers outlining the status of the development and their willingness to accept certificates for home sites that were not tied to specific parcels.
"What is the scheme here?" Mumford asked the jury.
Jenson doesn't dispute that Mount Holly had early financial problems and that a threat of foreclosure loomed in the first year of the planing, but those issues were resolved by fall 2007 when membership sales began, Mumford said.
What he does dispute is the way the government has misrepresented or omitted facts in order to prove Jenson is guilty of a crime, Mumford said. That includes, he said, failing to inquire about "hush money" deals inked between some of the alleged victims, and the role that former Utah attorneys general Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow played in the case.
"Aren't you just a little bit curious?" Mumford asked.
Jenson was charged in 2011, when former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff was still in office. He was previously prosecuted in 2008 for securities fraud, a case that was referenced repeatedly over the three weeks of trial because it brought Jenson into contact with state's former top cops for the first time.
In 2013 Jenson became a key player in the bribery and corruption investigation of Shurtleff and Swallow when he alleged the pair had pressured him for money and favors.
Mumford contends Jenson's current prosecution is part of a political punishment for refusing to comply with a "shakedown" orchestrated against him by the former Utah top cops.
Utah County is prosecuting the case instead of the attorney general's office to avoid any conflict of interest. Jenson is currently incarcerated for failing to pay some $4.1 million in restitution that was part of his 2008 plea in abeyance.
On Thursday, Taylor told the jury that testimony about Shurtleff and Swallow's alleged role in Jenson's undoing is nothing more than a distraction whipped up by the defense to the take the focus off the accused crimes.
"This case is about deception, not distraction," Taylor said. "I guess the question will be whether or not Marc Jenson gets away here in court, once again."