The Oct. 4 bribery trial of former V.I. Sen. John Tutein, a vice president in St. Croix businessman Jeffrey Prossers Innovative Communication Corp., has been postponed until November.
According to Hugh P. Mabe of the U.S. Attorneys Office on St. Thomas, the trial will begin Nov. 8. Mabe didnt say why it was being postponed. Assistant U.S. Attorney Curtis Gomez, the prosecutor in the case, couldnt be reached for comment Saturday.
Tutein, 41, faces federal charges of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and territorial charges of bribery of public officials and inducement to conflict of interest. Tutein is charged with two counts each of the territorial offenses.
According to U.S. Attorney James Hurd, the indictment alleges that from on or about Oct. 1, 1998, through Feb. 5, 1999, Tutein offered to give Sen. Allie-Allison Petrus and other individuals cash, a van and a mobile TV broadcast van, worth a combined $177,000. The offer was allegedly made in connection with a series of transactions involving the V.I. government.
During Senate deliberations May 21 on the ICC-V.I. government land swap, Petrus accused Tutein of offering him an envelope full of $100 bills last October in exchange for support on an upcoming issue. Tutein denied the accusations.
The ICC-government deal would have involved Prossers company purchasing 2,800 acres of land on St. Croixs northwest shore for close to $30 million. Prosser would have turned over to the V.I. government 1,000 acres of improved, subdivided land, which would have been given to government workers to satisfy some $200 million they are owed in retroactive wages.
He also would have given nearly $10 million for public projects to be built on all three islands.
In return, Prosser would have received full tax breaks for 10 of his companies for 30 years, valued between $180 million and $3.5 billion.
The controversial proposal was considered by Gov. Charles Turnbull, then pulled by Prosser after intense criticism in the community. The deal, however, was revived by the Senate and approved 8-7. It was during Senate deliberations that Petrus made his accusations. Turnbull eventually vetoed the bill.
The maximum penalty for bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The top penalty for the territorial offense of bribing public officials is five years and a $1,000 fine. The maximum penalty for inducement of conflict of interest is five years and a $5,000 fine.
The U.S. Attorneys Office has jurisdiction because the V.I. government receives more than $10,000 in federal funds annually.