A federal judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in the “Ghost Lobby” trial after jurors ended three days of deliberation without a verdict.
All four defendants were charged with felony conspiracy, bribery, mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud after Gary and Sherry Pierce were alleged to have accepted $31,500 in bribes from utility owner George Johnson in exchange for Gary Pierce’s favor while he sat on the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Jim Norton was accused of directing his now ex-wife, unindicted co-conspirator Kelly Norton, to hire Sherry Pierce at her firm, KNB Consulting, through which the money was funneled.
On Tuesday, the jury informed U.S. District Court Judge John Tuchi that the 12 jurors could not reach a unanimous decision after taking a vote on three separate occasions.
After Tuchi questioned the foreperson for several minutes, he found that the jury was hopelessly deadlocked.
Despite the government’s best attempts to convince the jury that Gary Pierce’s official acts as a utility regulator were influenced by payments made to his wife, Sherry Pierce, the defendants remain free – for now.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Fred Battista and Frank Galati had no comment on whether the state would retry the case. Galati shrugged at questions from reporters.
And the defense did not immediately have much to say either.
Attorneys for the Pierces and Johnson declined to make a statement right away.
Speaking for himself, Norton initially deferred comment to his attorney, but when asked if he thought the government would pursue the case a second time, he said, “I didn’t think they’d do it the first time.”
His attorney, Ivan Mathew, maintained Norton’s innocence.
“We’re grateful that the jury was able to take a careful look at the government’s theories and see that they were not able to meet their burden of proof,” he told reporters in a brief statement.