Editing changes became a hot topic Monday as the second week of the securities fraud trial of Wild West World founder Thomas Etheredge began.
The focus was on how the phrase "Midas touch" found its way into a chapter written by Etheredge for the book "Real Men, Real Faith."
The prosecution is alleging that information in that chapter helped to persuade investors to give money to Etheredge for Wild West World, a theme park in Park City that remained open for only two months in 2007 before going bankrupt.
Gene Williams, a longtime Wichita pastor, compiled the book with chapters provided by a number of men and published it in 2004.
Monday, Williams testified that he edited the Midas phrase into the draft that Etheredge sent him.
" (Etheredge) pointed out how he made money on whatever he did," Williams said. "I interpreted that to mean that he had the Midas touch."
Williams also told the court that Etheredge was later given a chance to see a final copy of the draft.
Asked by Kansas Securities Commissioner Chris Biggs, who is helping to prosecute the case, whether Etheredge ever objected to anything contained in the chapter's final version, Williams said, "No."
The "Midas touch" phrase comes up early in the chapter when Etheredge wrote about his business deals from his preteen years through college.
In a copy of the draft he wrote that was shown to the jury, Etheredge had said "most" of his business ventures through his early years made money.
In red ink, Williams edited the draft to read "as if" Etheredge "had the Midas touch."
Williams said the publisher further revised it to say, "I had the Midas touch," which is the phrase that appears in the book.
Monday's other witnesses included two investors, Wichita physician Rob Dillard and Summit Church associate pastor Pat Bullock.
Dillard and his wife, Angel, gave Etheredge $300,000. Dillard's testimony largely tracked what his wife said in court Friday.
"I feel lied to," said Rob Dillard, who testified that he first met Etheredge at church in late 2002 or early 2003.
In the book, Etheredge acknowledges that he had been in prison in the 1980s, but he doesn't explain that it was the result of being convicted of nine counts of securities fraud.
Chris Joseph, Steve's son and co-defense counsel, asked Dillard why he didn't check into the details of why Etheredge was in prison.
"I trusted in the character of the man I knew," Dillard said. "When you have a relationship with someone, you don't go around doing background checks on them. You trust them.
"And personally, I trusted Thomas. I loved him."
Like Etheredge, Bullock is a Texas native. He has been a Southern Baptist pastor for 51 years.
He said he first met Etheredge at Wichita's Immanuel Baptist Church, but they didn't get to know each other very well until a church split resulted in the establishment of Summit Church in late August 2006.
Summit Church met at Etheredge's Johnny Western Theatre on the Wild West World grounds.
Etheredge didn't come to Bullock for money. As he learned that other church members were investing in the park, Bullock hoped to expand his limited retirement fund by investing $10,000.
He wrote the check to Wild West World for that amount in December 2006.
"I told him jokingly that day, I wasn't sure if he should take it because everything I had invested in had gone south," Bullock said. "After that he'd holler out to me, 'We're solvent, everything is fine.'''
Bullock also testified that Etheredge told him that he would either get 100 percent return on his $10,000 after the park finished its first season or a chance to leave the money in the park as a stock investment.
Nothing about the investment was put in writing, Bullock said.
"I trusted him," Bullock said.
Others testifying Monday included:
* Debbie Taylor, Etheredge's ex-wife, said that the claims Etheredge made about a successful aloe vera plantation in the Central American country of Belize were not true. She said the business lasted only about six months and was shut down by authorities. She said a weight-loss clinic in 1987 in Canada was also a bust.
* Tim Bortka was allowed to give limited testimony involving the Bethany Trust case, which led to Etheredge's jail time in the 1980s.
Bortka, who was also involved with Bethany Trust and who now lives in Newport Beach, Calif., said he was convicted of selling unregistered securities and given five years' probation.
Bortka said the only venture by Bethany Trust that made any money was selling Cabbage Patch dolls, which netted $10,000. (Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the amount of money here.)
Bortka testified that Etheredge was the decision maker at Bethany Trust. If that's the case, Biggs asked, why was Bortka the company's president?
"Just because of his past," Bortka said. "Tom stated to me that he wanted to be in the background."