By BILL DRAPER
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) â¿¿ A federal securities fraud trial involving a Kansas City company that claimed to have $284 billion in assets crawled toward the end of its third week Thursday amid a flurry of objections and a judge's admonition to the lead defendant that unnecessary delays would no longer be tolerated.
Isreal Owen Hawkins founded Petro America Corp. in 2007 and started selling stock a year later. He and four others are accused of conspiracy and other crimes in connection with the sale of more than $7 million in unregistered Petro stock to unqualified investors.
Nine other defendants already have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.Hawkins, 57, of Kansas City, Kan., has no formal legal training but has been defending himself throughout the trial. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes scolded Hawkins for filing a list of 32 new witnesses earlier this week and taking other actions that have bogged down the trial. "You've done things that delay or hold up this court," Wimes said before jurors were brought into the courtroom. "I don't need to know, and the jury doesn't need to know, what high school (witnesses) went to. "I'm not going to revisit this," the judge said. "I've talked to you the last two weeks about this. We're moving forward." Despite Wimes' warning, progress was slow Thursday morning as prosecutors and defense attorneys voiced at least 20 objections to Hawkins' questions in the first hour. Wimes sustained most of them. Attorneys for co-defendants Teresa Brown, Johnny Heurung, William Miller and Martin Roper are trying to convince jurors that their clients did not intend to defraud anyone when they sold Petro stock. All four have pointed to Hawkins as the primary source of information regarding the company, which he founded in Kansas and later moved to a "virtual office" in a high-rise near Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo.