A Howard County jury deliberated nearly nine hours Thursday before acquitting Georgia businessman Johann Schmidt of a felony theft charge, ending a long-running saga over a business deal gone sour.
Schmidt, 68, had been accused of defrauding Peru businessman Mark Bowyer and First Farmers Bank in a deal to purchase and lease heavy construction machinery.
But after hearing evidence most of the week, the jury decided otherwise, acquitting Schmidt of one of the two charges brought against him.
Howard Superior Court 2 Judge Brant Parry threw out the second charge after Schmidt’s attorney moved for a directed verdict, arguing there was nothing to support the accusation.
Schmidt’s legal jeopardy stemmed from a business arrangement between Schmidt, the owner of a concrete crushing firm called Crushtek, and Bowyer, owner of Bowyer Excavating and other ventures.
According to police affidavits filed against Schmidt in 2009, Bowyer borrowed several hundred thousand dollars to fund a joint venture between Crushtek and Bowyer Excavating, which Schmidt was to use to purchase crushing equipment.
Court records indicate that in 2004, First Farmers State Bank initially loaned Schmidt $790,000. Over the next few years, Bowyer paid Schmidt about $2 million, with some funds paid as an advance on Crushtek expenses, and some funds used to purchase crushing machines for resale.
At some point, Bowyer alleged, Schmidt failed to deliver machines as promised.
In 2007, after an Indiana State Police investigation, Schmidt was charged in Miami County under two separate cases totaling eight charges and was extradited from Texas where investigators, armed with warrants, tracked him down two years later.
While the Miami County charges were pending and before Schmidt was arrested, additional theft charges were filed against him in Howard County, alleging Schmidt failed to deliver machines for which Bowyer had paid. Bowyer borrowed money from STAR Financial Bank in Howard County to make the purchases.
To resolve all the charges filed against him in Miami County, Schmidt pleaded guilty to a Class D felony theft charge in one of the two cases and was sentenced to three years in the Indiana Department of Correction. He was released in 2011.
Scott Smith is on Twitter, @JasonSSmith1, and can be reached at email@example.com.