Testimony Continues In Trial Of Former Wild West World Owner

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010

Testimony in the trial of former Wild West World developer Thomas Etheredge continues today.

Prosecutors made their opening statements and called their first two witnesses late Wednesday afternoon. Jurors heard from an investigator with the Office of the Kansas Securities Commissioner, as well as a relative of Etheredge who lost $150,000 investing in his businesses.

Marvin Whitson, uncle to Etheredge's wife, told jurors he gave Etheredge money for Wild West World because it seemed like Etheredge had a solid plan. He said he did not know all the details of Etheredge's past, including prior financial-related convictions in Texas and Missouri.

Prosecutors have charged Etheredge with nine counts of securities fraud. They say Etheredge mislead investors - mainly family and friends from his church - by failing to disclose important information about his business history and criminal past.

On the stand Wednesday, Whitson told prosecutors he would have liked to have known more about Etheredge, saying it would have led him to ask more questions before investing. However, Whitson said even if he had known Etheredge's full story, he probably would have invested in Wild West World anyway.

Thursday morning's testimony dealt with how Etheredge secured financing for Wild West World through a small business loan for $8.7 million.

Defense attorneys opted to refrain from making opening statements to the jury as trial began Wednesday, saying they will present their entire case without interruption once the prosecution has rested.

Trial is expected to last two to three weeks. If convicted, Etheredge could face more than a decade in prison.

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