Colquetts’ defense: They intended to pay

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Prosecutors are comparing an allegation of theft against a former Covington County commissioner and his wife to “breaking into someone’s house and stealing their stuff.”

Opening statements were heard Tuesday in the theft by deception case against Kent Colquett and his wife Cynthia.

The Colquetts are facing charges stemming from the alleged theft of about 80,000 gallons of gasoline, worth approximately $230,000. Prosecutors allege the couple purchased the fuel on credit in 2006 from distributor and former Opp City Councilman Mickey Crew, with the knowledge they would soon file bankruptcy.

Assistant District Attorney Grace Jeter told jurors they should find the defendants guilty because the couple was aware of their impending bankruptcy while purchasing the gasoline.

Jeter called the couple’s actions, “a betrayal.”

The Colquetts’ attorney, Corey Bryan, said the couple’s behavior was not consistent with someone attempting fraud.

“There was always the intent to pay for the gas by Mr. Colquett,” Bryan said. “According to the law, failure to perform is not enough. You have to prove intent to not perform.”

Bryan pointed to the Colquetts’ appointment with a bankruptcy lawyer prior to closing their company’s doors as proof the couple was acting on the advice of a professional when they suddenly closed Colquett Oil Company in June of 2006.

“If (Colquett) didn’t know he was going to close his doors, how could he have ordered the gas without intending to pay?” Bryan argued. “He closed his doors on June 19, at the advice of a lawyer.”

Jeter argued the Colquetts knew they would have to shut down, but ordered the gasoline from Crew anyway.

“Kent Colquett knew what his plan was before he saw the lawyer,” Jeter told jurors. “He had a long-standing relationship with Mr. Crew, who did business with (Colquett’s) father. He never thought he would be held accountable.”

Bryan also showed jurors a copy of a $15,000 check paid to Crew by the Colquetts the same week they closed their company. Bryan argued that the payment was proof the defendants had every intention to pay their debt to Crew.

“These are the actions of someone with a struggling business that they are trying to keep afloat,” he said.

The state began calling witnesses Tuesday, but had not called their final witness when the jury was dismissed for the day.

According to Jeter, the state plans to call their final witnesses and rest today. Jeter said she expects the trial to wrap up with testimony from the defense this afternoon, but added “you never really know,” when it comes to the duration of a trial.