Press coverage complicates jury selection in trial of indicted state auditor

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TACOMA -- Amid repeated calls for his resignation,  the federal trial of Washington state Auditor Troy Kelley began with jury selection Monday.

Kelley, a former state representative, faces years in a federal prison if convicted on one or more of a dozen counts laid out in a federal indictment, including money laundering and perjury.

At the center of the government’s case are financial dealings tied to a real estate service company the 51-year-old operated during the housing crisis in the mid-to-late 2000s. Kelley is accused of stealing roughly $1.4 million in fees paid to his company, Post Closing Department.  Federal prosecutors say Kelley’s company should have refunded unused portions of the fees to its clients. Instead, in thousands of instances, Kelley is accused of funneling the money into accounts for his own personal use.

Kelley’s lawyer, Angelo Calfo, has said his client was entitled to keep the money and no crime was committed.

During jury selection Monday, many had knowledge of the case due to extensive media coverage and several potential jurors had to be excused because they said they had already made up their minds about Kelley’s guilt or innocence.

Also at issue during jury selection was Kelley’s military service. He is a lieutenant colonel in the Washington National Guard with more than 20 years in the armed forces.

One potential juror, a veteran, admitted that he would hold Kelley to a higher standard because in the military, “honesty and trust is something you have to live by.”

A panel of 12 jurors and two alternates are expected to be seated Tuesday morning, with opening arguments expected in the afternoon. The trial is expected to last more than four weeks.

Kelley is the first Washington state official to be indicted by the federal government in 35 years. Both Democrats and Republicans in Olympia have called on Kelley to resign amid his legal battle. Kelley, a Democrat, has refused.

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