Retired officer on trial for theft from 9-11 fund
WASHINGTON (AP) — A retired high-ranking naval officer honored for his valor during the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon is being tried for a third time on allegations he exaggerated his injuries to get money from the victims compensation fund.
Retired Cmdr. Charles Coughlin got $331,034 from the fund set up by Congress in the wake of the attacks. But prosecutor Susan Menzer told jurors today in opening arguments that Coughlin sought to take advantage of the country's generosity by filing a false claim. Coughlin's attorney John Bourgeois denied the allegations and described Coughlin as a hero who helped his fellow victims in the attacks.
Coughlin was first tried in 2009 along with his wife, also accused of making a false claim to the fund in support of her husband's application. The jury found Charles Coughlin not guilty on three mail fraud counts, but couldn't agree on a verdict on four counts against him or the charge against his wife.
Prosecutors dropped the case against Sabrina Coughlin but put Charles Coughlin on trial again a few months later on the remaining four counts. But in the midst of that trial, a Supreme Court decision came down changing the standard for retrying defendants after a hung jury, eliminating two remaining mail-fraud counts against him.
Coughlin is now being tried again on the two surviving charges of making a false claim and theft of public money.