John Cook reports for the Seattle Intelligencer in an article titled “Judge frees Znetix pair from prison; death plot discounted.” Excerpt:
Znetix defendants Michael Culp and Steven Reimer have been released from prison after a federal judge discounted statements of convicted bank robber Darres Park, who testified that the two men discussed killing an FBI agent while incarcerated at the Sea-Tac Detention Facility this spring.
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman said Monday that there was not clear and convincing evidence that Culp and Reimer were conspiring to kill special agent Joe Quinn, who has played a key role in the investigation of the Znetix stock fraud.
Pechman reversed a ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Monica Benton, who ordered the men detained May 27 in connection with the alleged plot.
Free on bond, Culp and Reimer are awaiting trial on multiple counts of fraud and money laundering for the roles they allegedly played with Bainbridge Island-based Znetix and affiliated companies.
The case, described as the largest stock swindle ever to originate in the state, includes more than 5,000 investors and up to $100 million.
The detention hearing hinged on the testimony of Park, a martial arts expert and self-described tough guy who shared a cell block with the Znetix defendants from March 27 to April 1.
During that period, Park alleged that Culp and Reimer discussed killing special agent Quinn on many occasions. Reimer was so “fixated” on the idea that he went so far as to ask how much it would cost and where he could send the money, according to Park’s testimony.
But attorneys for Culp and Reimer attacked Park’s credibility and his past, which included three armed bank robberies and a faked racial incident outside a Belltown nightclub in 1990. As part of the defense, attorneys also submitted a letter from Park’s sister that described him as a “chronic liar.”
“Usually criminal defense attorneys don’t get a chance to cross-examine witnesses like this, who are so easy to cross-examine in the sense that their lies are so easy to expose,” said James Vonasch, the attorney representing Culp.
“From my point of view, it was very obvious that you couldn’t make a decision based on this person’s testimony.”
While Park passed a lie detector test administered by the FBI, the defense team called an expert witness who said so-called control question tests are flawed.
Drew Richardson, a former FBI agent who specializes in lie detection, said the tests can be defeated if a person employs simple physical tasks such as biting his cheek or mental exercises such as doing complex arithmetic.
“The results of this polygraph should not be indicative of the truth,” Richardson said.