ST. FRANCISVILLE — A six-member jury convicted former West Feliciana Parish Police Juror John Cobb on Thursday of three counts of felony theft stemming from his financial dealings in his family’s church in the Weyanoke community.
Twentieth Judicial District Judge William G. Carmichael, who presided over the three-day trial, ordered Cobb to post another $20,000 post-conviction bond and said he would set sentencing after hearing post-trial motions Jan. 10.
Cobb faces a maximum prison sentence of 30 years and a fine of $9,000.
The jury of four men and two women convicted Cobb of the first count of a three-count 2010 indictment that accused him of misappropriating $80,000 that was supposed to be transferred from a defunct, tax-exempt organization, Feliciana Enrichment Center, to Cobb’s church, Union Bethel Family Church.
District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla and Assistant District Attorney Haley Green introduced evidence and testimony they said showed that Cobb took an $80,000 check from the Clinton nonprofit organization, made out to Cobb’s church and, through a series of transactions, sent $50,000 back to the nonprofit’s directors George Veal and Oliver Wingfield through other parties.
Prosecutors also alleged Cobb put $15,000 into the church’s bank account and kept another $15,000 for himself.
In the second count, Cobb was accused of getting paid $5,120.83 from church funds in May 2009 for a steeple on the church’s new sanctuary, which was under construction at the time. Green told the jury that the steeple was built in 2010, shortly after Cobb learned that he was under investigation by State Police.
The third count alleged that Cobb took a total of $785 in church funds by cashing checks made out to a laborer and keeping the money himself.
Cobb took the stand in his own defense Thursday, denying the allegations and assuring the jury that he spent thousands of dollars of his money to build the new sanctuary, which he said is worth at least $1 million.
Opening his testimony, Cobb almost began crying, saying he had “been through hell” for three years but was glad to finally testify.
“I want to look everybody in the face and tell them exactly what happened,” Cobb said before Carmichael told Cobb to simply answer the lawyers’ questions.
Defense attorney Keith Sanchez read from the book of Genesis in his closing arguments, saying Cobb “had a dream” but “jealous brothers” like those of Joseph in the biblical account were “dream busters.”
“There is no criminal intent by this man,” Sanchez said loudly.
In her rebuttal argument, Green said Cobb portrays himself as “the angel of God who descended on the church,” but in reality Cobb was the “dream buster” because he stole money from a poor country church.
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