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WHEELCHAIR ATHLETE FACES TRIAL IN BILKING OF DONATIONS TO BOY

With the word of one of the world's premiere basketball players against him, Kem Hearne was bound over Wednesday on charges that he bilked donations from several people in the name of a boy who needed a liver transplant.

The wheelchair athlete from Bountiful now will face trial in 3rd District Court on four counts of theft by deception and one count of unlawful dealing with property by a fiduciary. The latter and one of the theft by deception counts are third-degree felonies. The other three counts are class B misdemeanors.Hearne has pleaded not guilty to all five charges.

Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone provided key testimony leading to the bindover.

Hearne, 34, was charged in April after an investigation into his dealings with Cory Mueller, a 10-year-old boy who has liver disease.

The division says Hearne took money, including a $2,000 check from Malone, for Mueller's transplant and never delivered the cash to a trust fund set up in the boy's name. Instead, according to testimony, the money went to a private account controlled by Hearne and a woman from Orem.

Malone testified that he was approached by Hearne with Mueller on his lap and the boy's mother at the 1990 Utah State Fair. Malone was attending the fair with some friends.

"We (Hearne and the Muellers) were just talking and they mentioned they were raising money for Cory's transplant. I thought it was cool that he (Hearne) was in a wheelchair himself but he was doing this (for Cory). That's one of the main reasons I did it," Malone said.

The Jazz all-star at first began to hand Cory $300 in cash but then pulled it back and wrote the $2,000 check instead, testified Carmin Mueller, Cory's mother.

Malone said he handed the check to Cory but then watched Hearne take it from the boy.