INDIANAPOLIS -- Trump Casino must pay more than $1.2 million to two businessmen
who were dropped from the Gary casino venture three years ago, a federal jury
decided early today.
After almost nine hours of deliberation, the jury decided the casino had broken
a contract with businessmen William Mays and Buddy Yosha.
The jury said casino owner and real estate tycoon Donald Trump was not
personally responsible but held his gambling company, Trump Indiana, liable for
breach of contract.
Mays and Yosha, who were among a group of Indiana investors who were supposed
to get 1 percent interests in the Trump casino, were awarded $667,062 each as
compensation for lost profits.
But the jury rejected their demand for $30 million in punitive damages and
ignored their request for control of tens of millions of dollars in charitable
While the jury found Trump's casino company liable for breach of contract, it
found the company had not committed fraud, as the businessmen had charged.
The jury delivered its verdict around midnight region time, after a long day of
complicated and contentious closing arguments.
During those arguments, lawyers for Mays and Yosha refuted influence-peddling
allegations that Trump had made during his testimony earlier this week.
The lawyers said their clients had been courted by Trump executives because of
their stature and good names.
Attorney James Fisher angrily denied Trump's assertion that Mays and Yosha
were allowed to join the casino project as a favor to then-Mayor Thomas V.
"They were chosen because of their impeccable reputations," Fisher told the
jury of four men and four women. "(Trump) is the guy on the hook."
Fisher criticized the Trump organization of recruiting Mays and Yosha in an
attempt to "Hoosierize the deal." The inclusion of homegrown investors was
supposed to ingratiate Trump with the Indiana Gaming Commission and smooth over
any concerns gaming regulators may have had about an out-of-state firm winning
one of the Gary casino licenses, Fisher said.
Trump testified that Mays, Yosha and six other Indiana investors were allowed
to join the casino project because of their political connections to Barnes,
then mayor of Gary.
However, Trump attorney Alan Brown did not focus on Barnes as the political
sponsor of Mays, Yosha and the other investors. Instead, Trump's lawyer said
the investors were recruited because of their connections to the local and
state Democratic organizations.
Trump's attorney did not specifically name the politicians to whom the
investors were tied, but said Democratic insiders were hired by the Trump
organization to provide political guidance for the project. That guidance
included identifying and recruiting well-connected, well-regarded Democrats,
Brown said in closing arguments.
Barnes, in a telephone interview Wednesday morning, agreed.
The former mayor said he had no connection to or knowledge of most of the
investors involved in the Trump deal. But Barnes said he believes those
investors were tied to other factions of the city and state Democratic
Barnes said his administration pressured prospective casino developers to
include local investors, but said he never tried to influence the decisions
made by Trump executives.
Barnes, who left office in 1995 after losing the Democratic primary to Scott
King, lamented the lack of local investors in either of the Gary casinos.
"That was one of the pillars of the casino legislation," Barnes said. "Without
local ownership, it's questionable about whether you are going to have local
Mays, a chemicals magnate from New Albany, and Yosha, a personal-injury lawyer
in Indianapolis, accused Trump of breaking a contract guaranteeing them each a
1-percent interest in the casino and partial control of a charitable trust
funded with a 7.5 percent interest. They would have bought into the deal by
borrowing $1.4 million each from Trump.
Trump's attorneys, however, insist no contract was ever signed and that Mays
and Yosha were dropped from the deal because their inclusion did not sit well
with gaming regulators because of the convoluted, no-risk financing arrangement.
Fisher said Mays and Yosha each lost at least $2 million when they were dropped.
Trump's lawyers called those calculations were fanciful.