Defense: Case against gambler fails because witness lied

NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer for a Las Vegas gambler linked to golfer Phil Mickelson told jurors Thursday to acquit his client of insider trading charges, saying the prosecution hangs on the lies of the government’s main witness.

William “Billy” Walters should be acquitted because he never cheated when he earned over $40 million through well-timed trades of the stock of the Dallas-based Dean Foods Co., attorney Barry Berke said.

A prosecutor a day earlier had urged conviction, saying documents including phone and trading records supported the testimony of former Dean Foods board chairman Thomas Davis.

Davis said he fed secrets about Dean Foods to Walters so that he could make profitable trades and that he hoped to get some tips about business and gambling in return.

Berke said he would leave no doubt among jurors that Davis had lied repeatedly.

“You’re going to see it. You’re going to feel it. And you’re going to know it,” Berke said. “What he’s saying about Mr. Walters not only isn’t true, it couldn’t be true.”

Berke said his 70-year-old client was “in the fight of his life” and was viewed negatively by the government in part because he is a “high profile, colorful Las Vegas gambler.”

“The prosecution in this case had some blinders on,” he said.

Closing arguments over two days capped a three-week trial and enabled jurors to begin deliberations in late afternoon.

Walters is charged with earning tens of millions of dollars illegally by making profits and avoiding losses through tips from Davis. Davis pleaded guilty to federal charges and is cooperating in the hopes he’ll be sentenced leniently.

Mickelson wasn’t charged. But the Securities and Exchange Commission accused him in a civil lawsuit of making nearly $1 million trading Dean Foods stock. Mickelson agreed to repay it.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brooke Cucinella said in her Wednesday closing that Mickelson had given his winnings to Walters to cover gambling debts.

She said Mickelson bought Dean Foods stock for the first time after Walters “told Mickelson that the trade was a winner.”