At approximately 10:40 this morning, a packed courtroom on the 15th floor of the Earle Cabell Federal Building and Courthouse filled with friends and family of the co-defendants, members of the media and lawyers sits abuzz with anticipation. This is it. Finally.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn enters and announces that the jury has reached unanimous verdicts on all counts against Don and Sheila Hill, D'Angelo Lee, Darren Reagan and Rickey Robertson. "I recognize the tension and pressure that this situation creates," she says, giving strict instructions for everyone not to show any visible or audible reactions to the verdicts she's about to read.
The jury foreman hands the verdicts to the bailiff, and Lynn tells the co-defendants and their lawyers to stand. Don and Sheila Hill immediately clasp hands, with Don grabbing Sheila's left with his right. Don's attorney, Ray Jackson, reaches for Don's left hand, while Victor Vital, Sheila's attorney, grabs Sheila's right hand. All four look at Lynn.
Both of the Hills and Lee are found guilty on count 10, with Robertson found not guilty. There's virtually no reaction from the Hills or their attorneys, although Don slightly readjusts his hold on Sheila, perhaps squeezing a bit harder. Lee stands alone behind his attorney, Doug Greene. Lee's hands are folded in front of him. His head is down, and he stares calmly in the direction of the jury, but isn't looking at them.
The jurors appear confident of their decisions, yet understandably exhausted after the lengthy trial. As guilty verdicts continue to pile up for the Hills and Lee, there's virtually no change in their demeanor, and the courtroom is silent. Robertson and Reagan hear guilty verdicts for their part in this mess, and they too show no emotion.
After Lynn grants a request to allow the defense to talk with the media about the case, she instructs everyone to "conduct themselves with appropriate decorum" and leaves. The Hills hug several friends and even share some laughs, with Don repeatedly saying, "We're good."
Robertson joins his wife and baby daughter in the hallway outside the courtroom, and Lee is introduced to both. Lee walks up to Sheila and hugs her. "It ain't over," he says after kissing her on the cheek. "I know," she replies confidently.
The Hills and Lee hold separate press conferences simultaneously on opposite sides of the courthouse entrance, as Reagan awaits a 1 p.m. hearing to determine if he'll be taken into custody immediately or be allowed to await his sentencing as a free man like the others. (Reagan was released.)
Lee has little to say, claiming he's shocked by the verdicts. He'll appeal, but until then, what will he do? "Be still," he says. "Wait."
Greene, his attorney, says Brian Potashnik's plea deal shows the power that the federal government has over people. "He worked the best deal he could work," he says of Potashnik. "He just worked it on our backs."
The Hills will also appeal and both claim "justice wasn't served." Don says he doesn't have any anger or bitterness toward Potashnik. "He did what he had to do."
Robertson offers no comment.