Lindberg bribery retrial delayed until at least April

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  • The retrial on bribery and fraud charges for former top NC political donor Greg Lindberg has been delayed to April or May 2024. It had been scheduled for November.
  • US District Judge Max Cogburn ordered the delay. The judge cited the need for Lindberg co-defendant John Gray's new lawyers to get extra time to prepare for the case.
  • Lindberg faced a seven-year prison sentence after the first trial. The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals threw out that sentence in 2022.

A federal judge has pushed back the planned retrial of former top NC political donor Greg Lindberg on bribery and fraud charges until April or May next year. The trial had been scheduled to start in November.

It’s the second delay for the retrial. As in the case of the first delay, Lindberg’s new trial has been pushed back because of issues related to legal representation for co-defendant John Gray.

Gray’s latest legal team asked for the delay. Federal prosecutors agreed to extend the case for at least five months.

“[T]his matter is continued to a criminal term no earlier than April 2024,” US District Judge Max Cogburn wrote in an order signed Thursday. “The Court intends to notice a specific date in either April or May 2024 once the Court has had the opportunity to consider its schedule.”

“[F]ailure to grant such a continuance would deny counsel for Defendant the reasonable time necessary for effective preparation, taking into account the exercise of due diligence,” Cogburn wrote, referring to Gray. “Moreover, the ends of justice served by granting such continuance outweigh the best interests of the public and Defendant in a speedy trial.”

The order references Lindberg without naming him. “[T]his matter is continued as to the remaining co-defendants and the time is excluded as a reasonable period of delay as such defendants are joined with a co-defendant whose case has been continued from the term and as to whom the time for trial has not run and no motion for severance has been granted.”

A motion filed Oct. 4 signaled the potential delay.

Gray has faced multiple changes in lawyers in the past year. His current legal team, two Asheville-based attorneys, officially joined the case on Sept. 26.

“Discovery for the initial trial was voluminous, including more than 80 hours of recorded conversations between the defendants and witnesses cooperating with the government,” according to the Oct. 4 motion. “In December, 2022, the government provided six million pages of supplemental discovery in a related case involving Mr. Lindberg. It is unclear how much of the additional discovery counsel for Defendant Gray will be required to review prior to trial.”

“Counsel, new to the case, will need time to review the discovery and discuss it with their client,” Gray’s attorneys wrote. “Requiring Defendant Gray to be tried before April, 2024 will unreasonably deny him continuity of counsel and deny replacement counsel the reasonable time necessary for effective preparation, taking into account the exercise of due diligence.”

Gray’s latest motion arrived on the same day that a lawyer for Lindberg appeared at the state Court of Appeals in a separate case. Lindberg is challenging a state Superior Court ruling related to a $600 million judgement against him. The Universal Life Insurance Company, or ULICO, argued to a three-judge appellate panel Wednesday that Lindberg is trying to delay paying the debt.

In a court filing in another case, ULICO claimed that Lindberg owes at least $1.9 billion to his top creditors.

The retrial is tied to federal charges that Lindberg attempted to bribe state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey with “more than $2 million” after Causey’s 2016 election. Causey worked with federal law enforcement officials, including wearing a surveillance wire, to collect evidence against Lindberg and associates.

Lindberg was convicted in March 2020 and was sentenced to a seven-year federal prison term. But the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out that conviction in June 2022. Appellate judges ruled that mistakes in Cogburn’s jury instructions had “infected” Lindberg’s convictions.

A second federal trial related to a separate 13-count indictment against Lindberg already has been delayed. Originally scheduled this summer, that case will now be pushed back until after the bribery and fraud retrial.

Before the legal action against him, Lindberg had attracted attention in the last decade as a top donor to political campaigns in North Carolina. He supported Democratic Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin’s unsuccessful 2016 re-election bid. Goodwin lost to Causey.

Later Lindberg became the largest financial contributor in 2017 to the NC Republican Party and two groups supporting then-Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican. Forest lost the 2020 governor’s race to the incumbent Democrat, Gov. Roy Cooper.