Former Sommet Group CEO Brian Whitfield took to the witness stand in U.S. District Court Friday to explain why he violated pretrial release conditions related to his criminal fraud indictment. And while Judge John Bryant said Whitfield's actions had been “deliberately deceptive” and his reasons for them not compelling, he nevertheless denied requests from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to revoke Whitfield’s bond or force him to move back to the Nashville area.
Whitfield testified that he had failed to inform his pretrial release supervisor about a change in his address in Arizona. He said he moved out of a Scottsdale home for which he was paying $2,200 per month after it was bought by new owners. Whitfield said he has been living for more than six months at the house of a friend, Mike Shaw, whom he had met at the gym.
When Whitfield's pretrial services officer asked for proof of address in October, Whitfield provided a dated DirectTV bill with his old address. Whitfield said he had misled the authorities because he didn't want to subject Shaw's residence to a thorough search. He called his actions “wrong” and “stupid.”
Whitfield, who now works in a Gap apparel store, said he was receiving financial support from his mother — which has become a point of contention with his sister. Bryant didn't allow a specific question from the government as to how much support Whitfield was receiving from his mother.
In addition to the address deception, the government also is concerned about an alias — Brian Edwards — Whitfield has been using. Whitfield testified that the alias came from an Internet radio show he had been hosting that helped people deal with “turmoil” like divorce. He claimed that he didn't use the name in any official capacity, even though both of his roommates knew him as Brian Edwards.
The U.S. Attorney's Office asked for Whitfield's bond to be revoked, for him to be forced to move back to the Middle District of Tennessee and for him to be electronically monitored. Bryant did not grant any of those requests and allowed Whitfield to continue to live under the same conditions. He did, however, give court officers latitude to seek extra contact with Whitfield if they feel it necessary.
Were Whitfield to slip up again, Bryant added, the circumstances would be “markedly different.”
Whitfield is being represented by Peter Strianse of Tune Entrekin & White.
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