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HALL MONITOR BLOG: Jury gets its instructions in contractor theft trial

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Homer Key and Freida Webb.

Milwaukee contractor Homer Key faces four felony charges in a trial that began Tuesday and is expected to last through May 14.

He is accused of colluding with Freida Webb, a former Milwaukee County employee who was in charge of a disadvantaged business enterprise program during Key’s tenure, to steal at least $40,000 in federal grant money that came from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He has pleaded not guilty to four felony charges, including two counts of theft by fraud, one count of forgery and one count of conspiracy to commit the crime of having a private interest in a public contract.

He faces a maximum of $70,000 in fines and 29 ½ years in prison.

The jury has specific instructions it must follow once it begins deliberations.

The criteria are the same for the two counts of theft by fraud, but the counts deal with different stretches of time, and the jury must deliberate on each count separately.

For Key to be found guilty of theft by fraud, the jury must determine:

  • Milwaukee County owned the property Key is accused of stealing, which is federal grant money;
  • Key made a false representation to Milwaukee County;
  • Key knew that representation to be false;
  • Key made that representation with the purpose of deceiving and defrauding the owner of the property;
  • Key obtained ownership of the property;
  • Milwaukee County was deceived;
  • Milwaukee County was defrauded by Key’s misrepresentation, meaning the county relied on Key’s deception in relinquishing ownership of the property.

For Key to be found guilty of forgery, the jury must determine:

  • Key created a document by which legal rights were created or transferred, such as a contract;
  • That contract was a forgery, meaning it appeared to have been created on an incorrect date;
  • That contract was uttered as genuine, meaning Key presented it as a valid, truthful document;
  • Key knew the document was a forgery when he presented it to the county.

For Key to be found guilty of conspiracy to commit the crime of having a private interest in a public contract, the jury must determine:

  • Key intended a crime to be committed;
  • Key was a member of a conspiracy to commit the crime, meaning he had a mutual understanding with at least one other person to accomplish an illegal goal;
  • Key or another member of the conspiracy went beyond mere planning or agreement, meaning someone took a step toward achieving that illegal goal, even if that step was not in itself illegal.


To determine the potential existed for Key to have conspired to commit the crime of having a private interest in a public contract, the jury must find that:

  • The woman Key is accused of colluding with was a public employee;
  • That woman personally entered into a contract;
  • That woman was authorized as a public employee to enter into that contract;
  • That woman had a personal financial interest in that contract.

Key’s attorney is Richard Hart Jr., of Milwaukee-based Hart Law Office.

About Beth Kevit, beth.kevit@wislawjournal.com

Beth Kevit is the Milwaukee city beat reporter and also covers real estate. She can be reached at beth.kevit@wislawjournal.com or 414-225-1820.

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