Fuelberg, convicted in December, is also seeking not to testify in the second PEC-related trial of attorney Walter Demond
Two months after saying he wouldn’t appeal his conviction on felony theft and money laundering charges, former Pedernales Electric Cooperative general manager Bennie Fuelberg has changed his tune.
Fuelberg’s attorney Chris Gunter said Tuesday he has filed a motion for a new trial with State District Judge Dan Mills ‘ court. He said he expects the judge to deny that motion, in which case he will proceed with an appeal.
Fuelberg, who ran the nation’s largest member-owned electric utility for more than 30 years, was convicted in December of third degree theft, money laundering and misapplication of fiduciary property. He received a probated sentence that includes 300 days to be served in the Blanco County jail, beginning in June.
Gunter said Fuelberg is not on probation currently, and any jail time he might face will be put on hold during the appeal.
Gunter said Fuelberg also does not plan to testify at the trial of Walter Demond , the former outside attorney for Pedernales, who faces trial in May on the same charges. The state attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting the Pedernales cases, is seeking an order granting Fuelberg limited immunity in exchange for his testimony against Demond.
“We have made it known to the AG that we do not intend to testify for either side,” Gunter said. Fuelberg may invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, Gunter said.
Fuelberg went on trial for his role in secret payments made to his brother, lobbyist Curtis Fuelberg, and Bill Price, the son of a former Pedernales board member, through Clark, Thomas & Winters, the co-op’s now-defunct former law firm, where Demond was a partner.
The jury acquitted Fuelberg on the charges related to his brother, but convicted him on the payments to Price and sentenced him to probation.
Mills gave Fuelberg the option of reducing his jail time by accepting responsibility for his crime — including waiving his right to appeal — and testifying against Demond. On February 11, Gunter said his client would accept that deal.
They changed their minds, Gunter said, after reviewing Mills’ rulings during the trial.
“We decided that but for a few of the judge’s rulings, the jury would have acquitted Mr. Fuelberg,” he said.
In particular, Gunter pointed to Mills’ ruling that allowed former Clark Thomas partner David Duggins to testify about what Fuelberg knew about the payments to his brother and Price. Duggins said Demond — also a former Clark Thomas partner — told him that Fuelberg directed payments of co-op money to Price and Fuelberg’s brother.
Gunter on Tuesday said that testimony was “double hearsay” and was the only evidence in the trial that indicated Fuelberg knew about the secret payments to Price.
Pedernales officials in March sought to revoke Fuelberg’s pension from the co-op, but their lawyers advised them that such a move was unlikely to succeed. Fuelberg collects payments of more than $12,000 a month from his pension plan, co-op officials have said.