The convicted former president of Starkey Laboratories and a former business associate filed a flurry of post-trial motions last week asking for a new trial in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
Fired Starkey President Jerry Ruzicka and a former Starkey supplier, W. Jeff Taylor, were convicted of fraud by a jury on March 8 for helping to steal millions of dollars from Starkey, the largest hearing aid manufacturer in America.
The jury found Ruzicka guilty on eight of 25 federal charges for his role in stealing restricted stock from Starkey's owner, benefiting from sham companies, tax evasion and stealing his company car. The jury found co-defendant Taylor, the former president of Sonion U.S. — guilty on three of 16 charges against him, including wire and mail fraud, for his role in setting up sham companies and splitting lucrative consulting fees with Ruzicka.
Both Ruzicka and Taylor had until last Thursday to file post-trial motions before Judge John Tunheim. The judge has not set sentencing dates for either defendant. And the two could still formally appeal their case, which is a different procedure than those involving the documents filed last week.
In his request last week, Ruzicka asked for a new trial based on a host of reasons, including alleged prosecutorial misconduct and the government's alleged violation of perjury rules in the handling of testimony by Starkey's owner, Bill Austin.
Ruzicka also said he deserved a new trial because prosecutors erroneously expanded the government's criminal indictment by accusing Ruzicka at the last minute of abusing his authority and autonomy and of fraud by concealment. Based on jurors' questions given to the judge before issuing the verdict, Ruzicka's motion said that their questions "demonstrate the likelihood that a conviction was based on an uncharged scheme."
Tim Rank, deputy criminal chief of the U.S. Attorney's Office's fraud and public corruption section, said in a statement that the government will soon submit a written response opposing the defendants' motions.
"Oftentimes, such post-trial motions seek to relitigate issues already decided by the court at trial," he said. "The government is confident that Judge Tunheim afforded the defendants in this case a fair trial."
Attorneys unaffiliated with the case noted that motions for appeal are often standard procedure in white-collar crime cases.
During a seven-week trial, Ruzicka and Taylor faced charges along with Larry Miller, Starkey's former human resources manager, and another former business associate, Larry T. Hagen. The jury acquitted Miller and Hagen.
In his appeal, Ruzicka alleged that he should never have been charged in conjunction with Miller and Hagen. He further alleged that the government's case against the two men was "thin" and that the only reason they were charged in his case "was to move them off the playing table."
Ruzicka argued that the charging of Miller and Hagen had nothing to do with laws being broken, but everything to do with the government's trial strategy. "Their improper joinder with Mr. Ruzicka's case prejudiced his defense and should result in a new trial," court documents said.
Taylor filed separate motions with the court last week seeking an acquittal. Taylor was fired as the president of Sonion U.S. in 2015 after questions came to light about lucrative consulting contracts that personally benefited Taylor and Ruzicka.
In documents filed Thursday, Taylor asserted that he is entitled to "a judgment of acquittal" on each count of mail and wire fraud against him because the government presented insufficient evidence that he participated in a scheme to defraud.
Dee DePass • 612-673-7725