Testimony reveals shifting alliances
In the second day of testimony in the corruption trial of ex-El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, defense attorneys challenged witnesses over the 2013 firing of a woman who had drawn his ire. At issue is whether the embattled former lawman committed extortion when he told top officials of a jail health care contractor that he would yank a $5 million medical services contract unless they terminated Wendy Habert.
“It threw us into a bit of a tailspin and we didn’t know how to respond to it,” said Carl Anderson, a former administrator at Nashville, Tenn.-based Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc.
Habert, a CHC employee who worked at the jail and oversaw the lucrative contract, was soon fired.
In testimony that drew fireworks on Thursday, Habert framed her termination as an act of revenge by Maketa — partly because she accused a top-ranking sheriff’s commander of sexual harassment and partly because she refused to help Undersheriff Paula Presley run to succeed Maketa.
The defense, which described Habert as a “problem employee” during opening statements, hammered on what they portrayed as her checkered job performance, including times she used obscene language during confrontations with Maketa and Presley.
But Anderson and a second CHC official told the jury they had no reasonable grounds to terminate Habert prior to Maketa’s threat.