By: Donald V. Watkins
© Copyrighted and Published on January 20, 2020
The Judicial Lynching of Isaac Culver
A Record of Service to Community and Country
Isaac Culver is a longtime native of Macon, Georgia. Culver, an African-American, is an electrical engineer. He was also the CEO of PCTI (a private Georgia corporation founded by Culver) and the former Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce for Macon-Bibb County. Culver, a married father of two daughters, was educated at Mercer University. Serving on over a dozen community boards and agencies, he was well-respected in his Macon, Georgia community. Culver had never been in trouble with the law.
Isaac Culver comes from an iconic civil rights family in Wheeler County. His father was the president of the local NAACP for 45 years. His father was also the first African American school board member, the first black city councilman, and the first African American county commissioner in Wheeler County where Culver grew up. When Culver's father passed in 2013, his mother succeeded him as a county commissioner.
PCTI had been in business for nearly thirty years. The company was a major federal government contractor and carried a designated "Top Secret" Department of Defense Facility Clearance. Complex, multi-year, multimillion-dollar technology contracts were PCTI's enterprise zone. One contract that PCTI performed for nearly 6 years resulted in savings for the U.S. Air Force of $80 million a year, totalling nearly a half billion dollars in all. PCTI reviewed technical drawings for the U.S. Army, designed and installed wiring harnesses for Air Force cargo planes, and designed and developed USA staffing for the Office of Personnel Management. For nearly 30 years, PCTI received stellar performance reviews by various federal government agencies, including the Department of Defense.
The Mechanics of a Judicial Lynching
In 2017, Isaac Culver's world was turned upside down when he was indicted by federal prosecutors for wire and mail fraud in connection with the delivery of high quality, state-of-the-art computer equipment that was specifically requested by the local system and delivered pursuant to a duly executed purchase order. To secure Culver's indictment for fraud, federal prosecutor Elizabeth Howard falsely represented to the grand jury that PCTI signed a contract banning the company from rendering vendor services to the local school system, including selling the system computer hardware for a profit. The contract contained no such prohibition. In fact, none of the charges presented by Ms. Howard to the grand jury were, in fact, contained in the final contract executed between PCTI and the school system.
The indictment presented to the grand jury alleged that PCTI, Culver, and Dave Carty (the company's vice president) sold fraudulent, non-working equipment to the local school board using a straw-man company to hide the fact that PCTI was the actual seller of the equipment. This was a blatant lie. Superintendent Romain Dallemand and IT Director Tom Tourand both were informed of the exact nature of using the General Services Administration schedule as a pass-thru to obtain the devices. The government's own witness, Chandler Newell, an expert in Information Technology, had purchased the same devices at the same time for a neighboring school system. This prosecution witness, who happens to be white, attested to the high quality and efficiency of the new computer devices at trial by exclaiming, "These devices are amazing!"
The indictment returned by the grand jury alleged that PCTI, Culver, and Carty violated the terms and conditions of the PCTI written contract, despite the undisputed fact that the school system's general counsel, Randy Howard, specifically reviewed all provisions in the contract and all aspects of the procurement process for this computer equipment before approving the transaction evidenced in the purchase orders. Mike Reeves of Friend Hudak (PCTI's counsel) reviewed the contract, the procurement process, and transactional documents, as well. Both lawyers are well-respected in the legal community and are above reproach.
The defendants pleaded "not guilty" to the government's charges.
Prosecutors Ran the Courtroom
At the beginning of the trial, Judge Marc Treadwell, who was a former insurance defense lawyer, pointed out that allegations involving contract violations were a civil matter, not a criminal one. Judge Treadwell, who is white, initially stated that he must dismiss the case. However, prosecutors Elizabeth Howard and Danial Bennett, both of whom are white, protested such a dismissal and proceeded to change the prosecution's theory of the case by stating that she would "no longer talk about the contract." After these prosecutors barked at Treadwell, he backed down.
During the pretrial phase of the case and unknown to Isaac Culver, defense counsel filed a motion to continue the trial on the Friday before the commencement of the trial, which was scheduled for the following Monday. Counsel stated that he "would be ineffective and could not provide adequate representation" for Culver because of two unexpected events beyond defense counsel's control. First, the lead counsel was gravely ill. Second, at the request of the government, Culver's case had been severed from Carty's at the last minute, thereby destroying the defense's year-long joint-defense trial strategy. In an usual move, the judge denied counsel's motion to continue without a hearing. As such, the case was defended by an inexperienced attorney who had suddenly been catapulted to lead attorney for trial purposes.
Then, the jury foreman, who is white, sent his wife to the prosecutor right after jury selection to inform her that "we are praying for you and will help you get him." Judge Treadwell denied the defense's motion to interview the juror saying, "I don't have to let you interview him so I'm not going to." The defense found out about this illegal contact only when a local newspaper reporter contacted defense counsel to ask him what the judge decided about the juror speaking to the prosecutor. The prosecutor never volunteered the information. The jury foreman and his wife then proceeded to give the prosecutor a gift after the conviction they assured.
Because Isaac Culver entered a trial without his lead counsel and co-defendant Carty, who actually oversaw the school system project, most of the evidence and testimony prepared over a year was not presented to the jury.
The superintendent testified during his grand jury testimony that he knew that PCTI was the seller of the computer equipment, but he was stopped in the midst of this testimony by the prosecutor. Furthermore, the school system's IT director actually directed the company's senior project manager on the project to obtain the devices from PCTI using a GSA vendor for better pricing and to expedite the acquisition process.
In the end, the school system retained and used a lot of the computer equipment, which was brand new.
Federal Prosecutors Engaged in Selective Prosecution Based Upon Culver's Race
Federal prosecutors Howard and Bennett made a criminal case against Culver out of no case. To do so, they had to “twist” evidence and engage in selective prosecution.
In fact, during one of the pretrial hearings, the FBI acknowledged that the agency only conducted its investigation after Culver’s indictment and that the FBI found no criminal acts committed by Culver, Carty, or PCTI. Even though Judge Treadwell was shocked when he was told in court that the FBI investigation yielded nothing on the defendants, he did not dismiss the case.
It should be noted that the local district attorney and the Georgia Attorney General both reviewed Culver's case based upon the same evidence presented in the federal case. After their review, both prosecutors declined to charge Culver with a crime because they considered it to be a local school board policy and contract matter. They viewed this as a civil contract matter, not a criminal case.
Additionally, there were seven vendors providing $40 million worth of information technology services and goods to the Bibb County School District during the time period of 2012. Culver's contract was worth $3.7 million. Of the seven vendors, only one company, PCTI, was black-owned. The other six companies were white-owned. None of the seven IT vendors had a written contract that was presented to the Bibb School Board for approval and/or ratification in 2012. After whites seized control of the superintendent's office and school board's chairmanship in 2013, the board proceeded to ratify its purchase of goods and services with the white vendors on an ex post facto basis, while refusing to ratify Culver's computer contract and purchase orders. Interestingly, one of the white vendors whose contract was ratified was paid for purchased equipment even though it was not delivered until a year later.
By 2017, federal prosecutors in Macon elected to prosecute the sole black IT vendor and its executive officers for purported violations of the contract. Although the school board had constructive knowledge of all IT vendors by virtue of their budget review process and the vendor's dealings with the superintendent (the school system's chief executive officer), the final charge against Culver was that the school board had no knowledge that PCTI was the vendor. Under Georgia law, the superintendent had the legal authority to bind his/her school district when purchasing goods and services. As a matter of law, knowledge of the CEO's authorized executive actions is automatically imputed to the board.
The jury found Culver guilty, and Judge Treadwell sentenced him to 84 months in prison. After Culver's conviction, Culver and his company lost all of their government clearances; they were banned from competing for federal contracts for life, and PCTI was forced to dissolve because of the penalties imposed by Judge Treadwell.
Culver's conviction arose from a local school board contract that was funded with a local special option sales tax. There were absolutely no federal funds or agencies involved.
Culver's co-defendant, Dave Carty (who is black) was found guilty of one charge out of thirteen six months later. The evidence presented by the prosecutor was so weak that Carty's counsel elected to not even present a defense. It's obvious that Carty was found guilty of one charge out of thirteen only because Culver had been previously found guilty.
Isaac Culver has appealed his conviction and sentence. His appeal is pending.
More details about Mr. Culver's "trial" are available at: www.maconfactcheck.com
Tomorrow, we will examine the "Railroading of Alabama Attorney Chris Pitts" in "God Wears a Robe" - Part 3.