By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Last spring, before he saw the tapes, Jason Bredimus was calling the allegations against his father "ludicrous." There was never a hint of that type of behavior, he said in a preliminary hearing, and his father was frequently around children, including his stepchildren.
Ralph Romberg, a 72-year-old retired vice president of Neiman Marcus and longtime social friend of the Bredimus family, flew in from San Francisco to testify as a character witness. Romberg said he was so certain of Bredimus' upstanding nature that he wouldn't believe his friend molested children even if he saw him doing so on video.
Why so certain?
From the time he was arrested, it turned out, Bredimus had a story for his family and friends. It was far-fetched, but they were all ready to believe. Shortly after his release from the Thai jail, Bredimus telephoned Romberg from Bangkok and told him that he'd been abducted by police and drugged. "He told me that he had been arrested and that he had been taken to some small town away from Bangkok and that he had absolutely no recollection of what happened to him there." It was a drugged zombie, not him, doing those unspeakable things on the tape.
Bredimus told Romberg he'd posted bail and paid bribes in order to get out of jail. He was "going to try and get out of Thailand as soon as he could, because he was afraid for his life," the retired retail executive said.
Mills sent an investigator to Thailand to probe those issues as he dug into the case last spring and summer. In fact, he says, he was more interested in testing whether the government could get the damning tapes into evidence, but just in case, he was beginning to prepare a trial defense based on Bredimus' drugged/abducted story.
Bredimus didn't intend on leaving so much to chance.
"Mr. Bredimus was talking on the jail phone [in Seagoville]. The one that has a sign above it saying all jail conversations are recorded. That phone," says one of the sources. On it he was heard ordering his wife and son to help him make certain some key witnesses in Thailand, such as the pimp Pensri, did not come to Dallas to testify against him.
"Nick Bredimus was very clearly a drowning man who wanted to be rescued and was capable of drowning everyone around him," says Jason Lamm, a criminal defense lawyer in Phoenix. "You hear of wealthy, successful people who think they're above the law, that was him. He's very bright, very charming, very manipulative, and how can you not want to believe your father?"
Lamm got involved in the case when Jason Bredimus, a social friend, learned that federal agents had obtained legal authority to search his e-mail. Bredimus' phone conversations had led the feds into a new investigation, this one involving witness tampering and obstruction of justice. "The government cast its net very widely," Lamm says, and it caught his client in an investigation that he believes is ongoing. "Frankly, Jason was duped by his father; he was very much a victim in this," Lamm says, explaining that Jason believed his father's story that he was drugged and set up.
But Jason Bredimus was also apparently in the thick of his father's back-channel defense, along with Kyong Bredimus, who Lamm described as a "true believer" in her husband's innocence. Contacted at their stately pink brick home in Coppell, she declined to comment.
Three sources with close knowledge of the case say that Bredimus hired a Dallas lawyer, William Chu; an unidentified lawyer in Thailand; and a colorful El Paso investigator named Jay J. Armes in connection with the case. In all, Bredimus said at his sentencing, he spent $1 million on his defense. "He told them not to let anything get back to Mills," says one source.
Armes, who refers to himself as the "world's greatest detective" and hawks on his Web site a line of toy action figures in his likeness, including his prosthetic metal-hook hands, declined to take calls from the Observer. His secretary referred all questions about the matter to his lawyer, Carl Green, who also declined to comment except to acknowledge that Armes worked for Bredimus. "He has no knowledge of an obstruction investigation," Green says of his client.
Armes reportedly sent a crew of operatives to Thailand for what sources say was a six-figure fee, money Bredimus' wife is now trying to get back.
Chu said he had no knowledge of an obstruction-of-justice investigation, either, and declined to answer questions about the case. "We were part of the defense team," he says.
Groves, the prosecutor, says she is compelled to set the record straight that Mills, the only lawyer court records attach to the case, was unaware of any efforts to tamper with witnesses. "There is nothing that implicates Tom Mills or any associates in his firm with obstruction," she says. Groves declined to give any other details of the investigation. No federal sources named Armes or Chu as targets of the probe.