Ogden restaurateur Jean Babilis will stand trial again on tax-evasion charges after a federal jury Friday failed to return a verdict, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial.
But before federal prosecutors get another shot at Babilis, the Utah State Bar gets a turn. Babilis will be in court again in less than two weeks, this time on allegations that he improperly took $78,659 from a dead woman's estate. The bar is seeking Babilis' disbarment, said assistant disciplinary counsel Wendell K. Smith.U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins dismissed the jury shortly after 4 p.m. Friday. First, he asked any of the 12 jurors to raise a hand if the juror thought a verdict could be reached with more deliberation.
No one raised a hand.
Neither Babilis nor his attorney could be reached for comment about the mistrial. Federal prosecutors will meet to review trial strategy, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Glen Dawson. The judge will hold a scheduling conference later this month to set a new trial date.
The hung jury - a rare occurrence in federal court - revived earlier questions about juror 12. Prosecutors told the judge that the woman was having improper communications with Babilis and exhibiting hostility to the prosecution.
Early in the trial, the woman muttered an expletive to Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Breinholt as he passed the jury box. Breinholt complained about her comment and prolonged eye contact with Babilis to the judge later that day.
"I have no reason to believe juror 12 wasn't as conscientious as the others," Dawson said after the jury was dismissed.
The four women and eight men deliberated for 21/2 days before declaring an impasse. The frustrated jury sent a note to Jenkins late Thursday, telling him they were having problems.
He advised them to get a good night's rest and try again Friday. No one can decide these issues better than you can, Jenkins told the jury in his reply note.
The bar proceedings stem from Babilis' 1991 management of Jane Kern's estate. Babilis agreed to settle the estate with the court for approximately $80,000 - or about one-third of the estate.
But Babilis took $78,000 from the estate, altered the records to disguise the transactions, then billed the woman's stepson an additional $70,000, according to the bar's complaint.
Babilis later claimed the $78,000 was an advance on owed fees, the bar complaint says. When Kern's stepson, Thomas Kern, complained to the bar, Babilis said the man filed the complaint to avoid paying him owed fees.
Babilis was part-owner of the Mullboons restaurants and the Studebaker's private club.