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Attorney Tracey Wood's client was one of two who were acquitted on the charges of conspiracy and conversion of government equipment in the largest known theft of equipment from a U.S. Military base. Three men were sentenced to long prison terms. The prosecutor declined to speculate why Wood's client would be found not guilty & three were charged on the same evidence.
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not guilty:
theft conversion & conspiracy

Madison WI - A federal jury Friday found three men guilty and acquitted two others on charges stemming from the theft of 153 vehicles valued at $13 million from Fort McCoy from 1994 to 1996. The jury deliberated for 21 hours over three days before handing down the verdicts on the charges of conspiracy and conversion of government equipment in the largest known theft of equipment from a U.S. Military base.

Wisconsin criminal defense attorney Tracey Wood's client was found not guilty on all charges.

Convicted Friday were: Dennis Lambert, 53, of Black River Falls, the base's former range maintenance officer, who was found guilty of conspiracy in the thefts. He was also found guilty on three of five conversion charges and not guilty on two others. Loyd Pilgrim, 37, of Amery, a military surplus dealer and owner of Ladd Auto Crushing, who was found guilty of conspiracy and two of three conversion charges against him. Grant Kruger, 43, of Maplewood, Minn., president of the Military Vehicles and Arms Museum of Minnesota, who was found guilty on one count each of conspiracy and conversion. David Butler, 44, of Fairfield, Iowa, owner of Vintage Power Wagons, and George Pretty, 58, of Sturgis, Mich., owner of Surplus Enterprises, were acquitted on charges of conspiracy and conversion. Kruger, Lambert and Pilgrim each face lengthy prison sentences at a Sept. 10 hearing before U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb. Each count of conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum sentence for conversion is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Their punishment will be based on the fair market value of the vehicles at the time they were illegally converted, said U.S. Attorney Peggy Lautenschlager. Kruger, in tears after the verdicts, said only that he felt "pretty bad" and will appeal. Lambert's attorney, Ed Genson, said his client will also appeal. "It's a court of law, not a court of justice," said one of Lambert's sons, declining to give his name.

The two acquitted men, Butler and Pretty, said the justice system treated all five men on trial unfairly. "I feel like the truth, at least on my part, came out. I knew I didn't do anything. They put me through hell. God answers prayer," Pretty said. "I don't care what they say -- I've gotten to know these people. I think they've misjudged them."

Despite the two acquittals Friday, government prosecutors were happy with the verdicts because "we believe we presented strong cases against all of the individuals,"Lautenschlager said. She declined to speculate Friday on why jurors would find three defendants guilty and acquit two others when presented with the same theory for all five defendants. The government contended that all the defendants knew the equipment was stolen by Anthony Piatz Jr. of Hudson, who bribed one base employee, Lambert, to help acquire and load the vehicles, and another, Donald Crandall, of Sparta, to create phony documents transferring the vehicles to Piatz. Both Crandall and Piatz were convicted on theft and bribery charges earlier this year and face sentencing next month. Defense attorneys said Friday they believed that the fewer ties a defendant had to Piatz the less likely jurors were to find him guilty. "I think Butler and Pretty were one more level removed from Piatz than the other (defendants). It seems like people who worked with Piatz on a daily basis, like Lambert and Pilgrim, in the jurors' minds, had more opportunity to learn the stuff was stolen than the others," said Pretty's attorney, Michael Dunn.

Butler's attorney, Tracey Wood, a Madison, Wisconsin criminal defense attorney with Van Wagner & Wood, S.C., agreed. "Lambert was on the base, Pilgrim hauled things off for Piatz, and Kruger did the titling for Piatz while Pretty and Butler essentially dealt with Piatz by phone," Wood said. Butler did own an abandoned missile base with Piatz near Roberts, in St. Croix County, and although Piatz used the base to store some of the stolen vehicles, Wood said it was obvious that the missile base was in no other way connected to the vehicle thefts. Defense attorneys argued that Crandall's ability to create convincing forged documents fooled everyone into thinking Piatz had the authority to remove the vehicles. "Pretty testified that he did not know that the missile launcher sold to Dr. (Ronald) Barnes in Tulsa (Oklahoma) was stolen. We argued that Crandall had phonied up the documents so well that everyone believed they were real. My client didn't know the equipment was stolen, and he was only telling Piatz about someone interested in some stuff for sale," Dunn said. Although found not guilty, Pretty has been punished by losing a government contract to restore vehicles and was kicked out of a military preservation society because of the charges filed against him, Dunn said. Butler, who sells vintage army trucks in Iowa, will decide whether to sell the missile base or turn it into a military museum as planned, Wood said. Fort McCoy is a 60,000-acre training base near Sparta, 95 miles northwest of Madison.

Report originated by Kevin Murphy. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This case was heard in Federal Court. Judge Baraba Crabb is a United States District Court Judge. Attorney Tracey A. Wood is a criminal defense lawyer at Van Wagner & Wood, SC, a Madison, Wisconsin criminal defense and drunk driving defense law firm founded by Attorney Christopher T. Van Wagner & Attorney Tracey A. Wood.