. . . During the trial, Theodore J. Minch, a public defender representing Gonzalez, argued his client was only following orders from Russell and Bateman when he orchestrated bank withdrawals and cut checks on behalf of The Russell Foundation, the not-for-profit the ethanol business was supposed to support.
The organization spent large sums of money on cars for its employees, on office furnishings including big-screen televisions from Best Buy, and on "pre-operational bonuses" in the $10,000 to $20,000 range for its principals, Bateman testified during the trial. But there was no indication the foundation spent a dime on its stated mission of alleviating poverty.
In testimony that turned emotional at times, Bateman said he gradually came to realize what he had done was wrong and accepted a plea deal to make peace. In exchange for cooperation, the government agreed to recommend a prison sentence of 30 to 37 months for Bateman, who otherwise would have faced up to six years.
Bateman, Russell and Gonzalez still are facing a civil suit in Marion County brought by Dr. Sumrall, who is seeking unspecified damages.Apparently, Gonzalez' lame Sgt. Schultz defense that he didn't know why they were buying all those luxury items for themselves with checks he personally processed using Dr. Sumrall's money was more convincing to the jury than the case federal prosecutors presented to them of his guilt.