Defendant coached wife, prosecutors say

Defendant coached wife, prosecutors say

September 23rd, 2011 by Kate Harrison Belz in News

Frederick Anderson, right, listens in Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom Thursday.

Photo by Kate Harrison Belz/Times Free Press.

Prosecutors say a man accused in a 2010 home invasion called his wife from jail and was taped "coaching" her on what to say in court.

Just before closing arguments Thursday in Frederick Anderson's trial, prosecutors submitted tapes of five jail phone calls as rebuttal evidence aimed at undermining the testimony of Anderson's wife, Stephanie Anderson.

Frederick Anderson, 46, of Atlanta, is being tried in connection with a June 2010 home invasion on 13th Avenue in which an 11-year-old boy was pistol-whipped. Anderson is charged with especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary, among other counts.

After prosecutors introduced the tapes, Anderson's attorney asked Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman to declare a mistrial, saying the tapes were submitted after testimony had finished.

Steelman declined, saying Anderson had violated the rule of witness sequestration by discussing other witnesses' testimony with his wife.

The jury is expected to give its verdict today.

In the taped conversations -- which occurred the night before and the morning of Stephanie Anderson's testimony -- the defendant asks his wife about his family before talking about where things stand in the trial, which began Sept. 13.

He describes an earlier witness' testimony, then quizzes his wife about what she plans to say during questioning. He corrects her on the color of shirt he was wearing the day of the arrest and the exact timing of different parts of her route that day.

"We need to get our s--- together," Anderson says at one point.

Throughout the conversation, a recorded message repeatedly interrupts, reminding the Andersons that the call "may be recorded or monitored."

Assistant District Public Defender Mary Ann Green challenged the prosecution's use of the term "coaching." She said the call just sounded like two people struggling to clarify the details of events that happened more than a year ago.

"I didn't hear anything that was contradictory to material evidence," she said. "It sounds like the nervous statement of a defendant who is afraid his attorneys are not talking to his witnesses."

During closing statements, Assistant District Attorneys Lance Pope and Brett Alexander said evidence lined up with victims' testimony that Anderson and an accomplice barged into the home, pistol-whipped an 11-year-old boy and ordered a woman to bind the family's hands with duct tape before taking off with a bag of cash and two cell phones.

Police found Anderson in a nearby abandoned house minutes later along with duct tape and the phones.

Authorities said Anderson targeted the home, knowing one resident was dealing prescription drugs.

"That still doesn't give the defendant a reason to prey upon her and her family," Alexander told the jury.

Assistant Public Defender Sharetta Smith said evidence linking Anderson to the crime was not strong enough.

"Mr. Anderson is a good man, a family man. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."