Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, a prominent Houston pastor and spiritual adviser to President George W. Bush, pleaded not guilty to federal fraud charges and plans to testify in his own defense, his attorney said Thursday outside of a courtroom in Shreveport, La.
The 64-year-old pastor was indicted in late March, accused with a Shreveport financial planner of selling millions of dollars in worthless Chinese bonds to elderly and vulnerable investors, according to court records.
“We believe in our hearts and in our souls that the jury is going to do the right thing at the end of this trial and acquit Kirbyjon Caldwell,” defense attorney Dan Cogdell said after the appearance before federal Magistrate Judge Mark L Hornsby.
Cogdell has maintained that Caldwell was dealing in good faith and will testify when the case goes to trial. He said a grand jury indicted Caldwell without hearing his side of the story.
“The grand jury did not hear from Kirbyjon Caldwell like the trial jury will hear, so we’re looking forward to our day in court when we can actually go forward and present our defense,” Cogdell said.
Federal prosecutors with the Securities and Exchange Commission have accused Caldwell and financial planner Gregory Alan Smith, 55, of selling 29 investors “collectible” Chinese bonds that are not recognized by the Chinese government as financial instruments or legitimate bonds.
Both men pleaded “not guilty” on Thursday and were released on personal recognizance bonds. Caldwell and his supporters followed Cogdell out the federal courthouse but did not speak.
Caldwell is accused of using his position as the senior pastor of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church to help lure nearly $3.5 million in investments between April 2013 and August 2014.
He and Smith allegedly told investors they could see returns as high as 15 times their initial investment. None of the investors got the money they’d been promised, and most did not recover even the value of their investments, according to the indictment.
A Houston native, Caldwell developed a friendship with then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush that continued into Bush’s presidency.
SOURCE: Brian Rogers