Linda Schrenko Trial, Day One

By: Laurie Ott
By: Laurie Ott

Prosecutors and defense attorneys laid out their strategies in the trial of Linda Schrenko and her two co-defendants.

It's a case of defense attorneys blaming everyone else and prosecutors saying they have proof of who stole from taxpayers and why.

Linda Schrenko was all smiles for day one of her federal fraud, money laundering and theft trial.

Prosecutors say she stole hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal money meant for Georgia schoolchildren and diverted it into her bid for governor because her campaign was always broke.

Jurors listened and watched as prosecutors laid out charts and diagrams of how they say Schrenko wrote a series of more than a dozen checks to companies owned by South African Stephan Botes.

More than half of the $614,000 ended up in Schrenko's campaign, paying for TV and radio ads and also helping pay for cosmetic surgery.

Prosecutors say Merle Temple also used the money to pay for a down payment on a car, a TV and a computer for Linda Schrenko.

Defense attorneys pointed fingers elsewhere.

Linda Schrenko's attorney Pete Theodocian acknowledged to jurors that the government's case looks pretty great on paper, but he says the case is not about an abuse of trust. He stated that Linda Schrenko hoped to do good for the children of Georgia, including those attending the School for the Deaf and the Governor's Honors Program.

Finally they added that she put her trust in the wrong people.

We asked Schrenko's attorney if there were any surprises from the prosecution today.

"No," Theodocian said, "they pretty much laid it out as we were expecting, and there weren't really any surprises today."

In opening arguments, defense attorneys said Schrenko and her former deputy superintendent Merle Temple were having an affair...something her attorney does not deny.

"We don't deny it," Theodocian said. "She was in a strained marriage and she was only staying in it for politics."

And while defense attorneys cast about blame, prosecutors say dozens of people in Augusta took part in the scheme. But prosecutor Russell Vineyard said Linda Schrenko enlisted the help of her own daughter and dentist Kathy Cooper and her office in funneling money to her failed gubernatorial campaign.

Vineyard also said close friend and political ally State House Rep. Sue Burmeister accepted cash and wrote a check to Schrenko's campaign.

Prosecutors brought two witnesses to the stand. One oversaw accounting for the Department of Education Technology Office. The other was a consultant who prosecutors say brought Stephan Botes and Linda Schrenko together in early 2002 to a relationship that prosecutors say would lead to stealing from the school children of Georgia.

Prosecutors introduced more than a dozen pieces of evidence Monday, including e-mails and checks they say were used to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to Schrenko.


Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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