WICHITA — The jury in the securities fraud trial of Wild West World founder Thomas Etheredge deliberated for about 20 minutes this afternoon before recessing for the day.
The jury got the case about 4:20 p.m. following instructions from the judge and closing arguments by both sides. It deliberated for about 20 minutes before going home for the day. It will resume deliberations Tuesday morning.
Sedgwick County Court District Judge Ben Burgess took nearly 30 minutes to give his instructions to the jury, which will decide whether Etheredge is guilty of nine counts of securities fraud.
In his instructions, Burgess said, "In the purchase of a security, the buyer is under no obligation to make an independent investigation of the security being offered for sale or of the seller."
He said "buyer beware" does not apply in securities transactions.
After Burgess finished, Chris Biggs, the Kansas Securities Commissioner, began his closing arguments. Biggs is prosecuting the case for the state.
Biggs told the jury, "The test isn't would they have invested, but they had a right to know."
Biggs has maintained throughout the trial that Etheredge withheld information about his personal background — including a previous securities fraud conviction — and past business dealings from investors.
Biggs frequently referred to Etheredge's chapter in the book "Real Men, Real Faith" as a "brochure" to promote himself and not just a testimony about his religious conversion.
Steve Joseph, Etheredge's attorney, will give his closing after Biggs finishes.
Etheredge is charged with nine counts of securities fraud after accepting $735,000 from a number of investors for Wild West World. After being open two months, the park closed and went bankrupt in July 2007.