As jury selection began Tuesday in the trial of Wild West World founder Thomas Etheredge, the defense filed a motion to limit information on Etheredge's previous fraud conviction.
The motion requested that Sedgwick County District Judge Ben Burgess instruct the jury that Etheredge was no longer obligated to repay investors $787,000 in the Bethany Trust case.
Etheredge was convicted in the securities fraud case in the mid-1980s and spent four years in prison. Burgess told the attorneys he would rule on the motion after jury selection is completed today.
Etheredge is charged with nine counts of misleading private investors as he struggled to raise money from early 2005 through 2007 to complete the Wild West World theme park in Park City.
He opened the park in May 2007 and closed it July 9, 2007, filing for bankruptcy the same day. He claims to have spent $24 million on the park over a three-year period. Etheredge blamed rainy weather and construction cost overruns for the park's failure.
Tuesday, he sat between his father-son team of attorneys, Steve and Chris Joseph.
In addressing Burgess, Steve Joseph said that Chris Biggs, the Kansas Securities Commissioner who is also prosecuting the case, was attempting to retry the Bethany Trust case.
In the state's filed response to Etheredge's motion, the prosecution said it would agree that Etheredge was no longer legally obligated to repay investors and that special instructions to the jury weren't necessary.
But the filing noted that in a preliminary hearing, Wild West World investors testified that they would have considered it important to know that people lost money in the Bethany Trust case and that Etheredge didn't repay it.
Lawyers spent the day questioning potential jurors.
Biggs' questions included religious topics. At the preliminary hearing, investors said they were swayed by Etheredge's claim to have experienced a religious conversion while in prison.
Among Joseph's questions while addressing the prospective jurors was whether they could "look past the past."
Etheredge, who has been held in Sedgwick County Jail on $1 million bond since his April arrest in Texas, faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted. The trial is expected to last two to three weeks.