Texas airline exec describes enemies at porn trial

AP News
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Posted: May 18, 2012 6:25 PM
Texas airline exec describes enemies at porn trial

The founder of a South Texas cargo airline testified in his own defense on Friday, the fifth day of his federal trial on child pornography charges, and described several people motivated to set him up.

Robert Hedrick told jurors about disagreements with two business partners, his ex-wife, a city commissioner and officials at the Brownsville airport where his airline was based. Hedrick was the defense's last witness and both sides rested Friday afternoon. Closing arguments were scheduled for Monday.

Hedrick is charged with five counts related to child pornography and sexual exploitation of children. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison on just one count of distributing child pornography. His lawyers have said he is the victim of a conspiracy. The prosecution rested Thursday.

Hedrick was president of three companies: a global pool supply company, a logistics company and Pan American Airways, an air cargo company connecting the U.S. and Latin America. His testimony Friday bounced from secret government contracts during the Cold War to business disputes in the months preceding his arrest. Each venture, including the marriage to his now ex-wife, seemed to produce another enemy.

Hedrick's attorney Ed Stapleton said in opening remarks Monday that the defense would not be able to offer proof of who was behind a conspiracy. Authorities found 2,400 pornographic images on three hard drives in Hedrick's home and traced Internet identities that had graphic conversations with undercover detectives posing as teen girls back to Hedrick. Three hours of Hedrick's testimony sketched a list of enemies.

There was a business partner who ran a South Texas pool company that Hedrick alleged hired ex-convicts with sex offenses. Hedrick said he forced that partner to resign from the company after he failed to live up to their business agreement.

"He was furious," Hedrick said.

Another man was a vice president at Pan American Airways who Hedrick said encouraged him to form partnerships with shady business entities in Colombia that Hedrick suspected were involved in drug trafficking. That man had his own company that sold spy and security equipment.

"It was a good relationship until it came down to greed," Hedrick said.

When Hedrick objected to Brownsville's consideration of a company that proposed offering passenger service to Monterrey, he said he antagonized and received threats from a local city commissioner. Hedrick said the city had turned him down when he made a similar proposal but was then considering offering the same kind of subsidies to another outfit.

Hedrick said he also made enemies of airport officials by complaining to federal authorities about security violations at the airfield.

And after 14 years of marriage, Hedrick said he caught his wife having sex with another man in their apartment. He initiated a divorce that he said was finalized while he was in jail awaiting trial. He said his ex-wife has a couple hundred thousand shares in his company "and I don't know what else she's been offered." He said her adult son also beat him up once.