COLUMBIA — The former CEO of a failed sweetener facility planned for northern Missouri wants to keep cameras out of the courtroom at his upcoming trial on felony fraud and stealing charges.
The Columbia Daily Tribune reported that Bruce Cole is asking a Randolph County Circuit Court judge to prohibit photographers and TV cameras when he stands trial next year.
The Southern California businessman is charged with stealing from the $39 million in bond funds borrowed by the city of Moberly to build an artificial sweetener factory that never opened. Prosecutors say he made false statements to promote his company and the bond sale.
Court-appointed public defender Raymond Legg said cameras in the courtroom would prejudice potential jurors. A county judge is expected to consider the request at a Dec. 5 hearing.
Legg's written request to Associate Circuit Judge Mason Gebhardt suggested cameras in the courtroom would "advance (prosecutors') personal political and professional careers" and influence witness testimony.
A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, which is prosecuting the case, declined comment on Cole's latest motions.
Cole, 65, has been imprisoned in Randolph County since October, when he was extradited from California. He received a public defender after reporting roughly $21,500 in annual Social Security payments, of which all but $221 a month goes toward his wife's health insurance.
Cole faces one felony count of stealing and four counts of securities fraud. In addition to the industrial development bonds from Moberly, Mamtek won authorization for up to $17.6 million in state incentives for a plant expected to employ more than 600 people.
Construction was halted on the partially complete facility after Mamtek missed a bond payment in August 2011. No state incentives were ever paid.
Cole is accused of ordering a consultant to submit a fake invoice for more than $4 million to Mamtek for engineering-related services by a nonexistent company. After Mamtek received the bond revenues in July 2010, Cole allegedly instructed the company's bookkeeper to wire $700,000 to his wife's personal bank account. Nanette Cole then used part of the money to make a mortgage payment and avoid an impending foreclosure on their Beverly Hills home, the charges state.
A preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 17-18. Gebhardt has already approved video recording by a Columbia television station and the Moberly Monitor-Index newspaper. The Columbia Daily Tribune has also requested photographic access, but its request is pending.
The federal Securities and Exchange Commission has also sued Cole and his wife, seeking financial penalties for the alleged fraud.
The SEC lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in California, said the Coles also used that money to pay credit card debt, homeowners and auto insurance, and household employees. It said Cole directed a second wire transfer of $204,167 from Mamtek to his wife's account to purportedly cover deferred compensation he was owed. The suit seeks an order forcing the Coles to repay their "ill-gotten gains" with interest, plus additional financial penalties.