Our reporter Doug Donovan is sending updates from the coutroom throughout the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon.
After Robert Lipscomb failed to appear for the prosecution, Judge Sweeney agreed with Dixon's attorneys and dismissed the two charges related to the gift cards that Lipscomb gave to Dixon.
But he rejected Dixon's request to declare a mistrial and said the jury will decide the remaining charges related to the gift cards given by developer Patrick Turner and from the housing department.
Dixons defense will start afternoon.
The late morning legal tussle started after the jury was given a lunch break near 11a.m. Defense attorney Dale Kelberman said the state failed to show that Dixon ever directly spoke to Lipscomb to request gift cards.
"There is no evidence that Sheila Dixon made any misrepresentation or false statements to Ronald Lipscomb," Kelberman said.
Sweeney asked the defense if its theory is that Dixon couldn't distinguish between gift cards for the poor and personal ones because she was "swimming in gift cards?"
Kelberman said it doesn't matter if she was "swimming in them" or "wading" in them up to "her ankles." The point is that the state can not prove that Dixon knew Lipscomb intended the gift cards for the poor.
In granting Dixon's request to dismiss the two charges related to the Lipscomb gift cards, Judge Sweeney said:
"It would require speculation ... to decide what Mr. Lipscomb's wishes were (for the gift cards). It's a bridge too far. There is simply no evidence" that Dixon solicited the cards from Libscomb to be given to charity.
"There is basis for suspicion," Sweeney added.
In its request for a mistrial, Dixon's defense team also alleged misconduct by prosecutors. Kelberman said state prosecutor Robert Rohrbaugh knew from the start of the trial that he wouldn't be able to show a direct line between Lipscomb's intent for the cards and Dixon's personal use of them. That is why, Kelberman argued, Rohrbaugh never mentioned Libscomb in his opening statement even though Lipscomb is the alleged victim of one of the theft charges.
Rohrbaugh protested the allegation and said he was prepared to put Lipscomb on the witness stand. But that his trial tactics changed when Dixon's defense revealed that they would make their case about Lipscomb's many gifts to Dixon in order to show the mayor simply thought the cards were more gifts from the developer, who used to be her boyfriend.
There are still five charges pending.