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Judge trims developer's conviction

MOBILE (AP) — A federal judge Wednesday overturned a jury's guilty verdict against developer Ken Wall for conspiracy but upheld his conviction on mail and wire fraud in the Orange Beach corruption case.

Prosecutors indicated they may ask U.S. District Judge Kristi DuBose to reconsider her decision and have requested a delay in Wall's sentencing, which had been set for Friday. Wall's attorneys stated in a written response that they oppose changing the date.

The judge's action was first reported Wednesday on the Press-Register's Website.

DuBose acknowledged in her 12-page order that it's rare for a judge to contradict a jury's decision.

"To overturn a jury verdict is an extraordinary act. However, a conviction that is not supported by the required substantial evidence is unconstitutional," DuBose wrote.

"After listening carefully to the government's evidence at trial (and taking all this evidence as true) and having the benefit of reviewing the relevant trial transcripts, it is the finding of the court that defendant Wall's conspiracy conviction is not supported by substantial evidence."

It was not immediately clear what impact the judge's decision might have on Wall's sentencing.

Without the conspiracy conviction, Wall presumably faces less prison time, but the U.S. Probation Office could not immediately estimate what advisory sentencing guidelines would prescribe.

Former Orange Beach Mayor Steve Russo, City Attorney Larry Sutley and Wall were convicted by a federal jury on numerous public corruption counts after a two-week trial in September. Russo was forced to resign.

Developer Jim Brown pleaded guilty in June to bribing Russo to curry favor at City Hall. Wall was charged for his role in separate schemes to enrich the mayor.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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