Friday, September 11, 2009
WALLA WALLA -- The trial of local attorney William McCool ended Thursday afternoon, but the outcome is in doubt.
Visiting Superior Court Judge Richard W. Miller of Adams County told attorneys following closing arguments he will issue his verdict in a written memo as soon as possible, but he couldn't promise a date.
McCool is charged with barratry, a misdemeanor accusing him of issuing a false subpoena on behalf of a client seeking information relating to a business dispute. On Wednesday, Miller dismissed a companion felony charge against McCool of improperly obtaining financial information.
The two-day, non-jury trial was held at the Walla Walla County Courthouse.
McCool took the witness stand for about two hours Thursday as a handful of supporters in the courtroom looked on. He is accused of sending the false subpoena in April 2008 to Scott Rowland, a representative of a Salem-based company that was printing the now-defunct Foyer magazine. McCool's client and then-girlfriend, Trisha Bush of Preferred Properties real estate, advertised in the magazine and had an acrimonious falling out with Foyer's publisher, Nick Ellenburg, who had been a former employee of Bush.
Bush believed that Ellenburg was bilking magazine advertisers by having thousands fewer copies printed than he was representing. So McCool sent the subpoena to Rowland in an attempt to obtain the number of copies printed. The subpoena "commanded" Rowland to supply the records.
In a phone conversation before doing so, "(Rowland) more or less acknowledged to me the numbers that were given by the owners of Foyer simply weren't correct," McCool testified Thursday. But Rowland couldn't or wouldn't release the figures, apparently because of a company policy.
So McCool asked Rowland, "Would it help if I sent you a subpoena?" according to McCool's testimony. "And (Rowland) said, 'Sure.'"
McCool said he then had a legal assistant draw up a subpoena -- which McCool glanced at and signed -- to send Rowland to use "as an excuse" if Ellenburg were to ask why the printing numbers were revealed. McCool said he believed Rowland would cooperate by sending him the requested documents.
McCool acknowledged a lawsuit hadn't been filed allowing him to issue such a subpoena. But he testified he believed it was proper by what he had learned -- or thought he had learned -- at a seminar more than a decade ago.
McCool said he did know, however, that the subpoena didn't compel Rowland to do anything because it was sent across state lines -- a practice that isn't technically proper, but apparently is common among lawyers with cooperative witnesses.
Although the subpoena appeared valid except for the omission of a court case number, "I wasn't trying to represent it as a, quotes, valid subpoena (Rowland) had to honor," McCool said. He added he never attempted to deceive or trick Rowland into believing it was.
Rowland testified Wednesday he told McCool in the phone conversation he would disclose print quantities if he was "legally obligated." But in McCool's testimony Thursday, he claimed Rowland never expressed that caveat.
In a followup conversation, McCool said, he told Rowland he didn't have to honor the subpoena and Rowland didn't provide the information.
McCool's primary practice for years has been criminal defense, and he said he was delving into civil law, the rules of which he isn't as familiar with, partially to help Bush. "But I wouldn't have broken the law for her," McCool said.
He characterized his mistake as "like missing an issue on a bar exam or legal exam."
He also tearfully testified he was "heavily impacted" by the charges filed last September.
With voice at times quavering, McCool said the accusations and surrounding publicity have disrupted him personally and professionally and "caused certain regrets."
As a Christian, "Even the thought of being accused of doing something dishonest brings dishonor on your Lord," he said.
Terry McConn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8319.