AUSTIN (KXAN) - Two of three brothers who owned a Downtown Austin nightclub empire that federal investigators said was a hub of drug activity and money laundering were found guilty of most counts on Friday afternoon.
Steve Yassine was cleared of the money laundering, while his brothers, Mike and Hadi,were found guilty of the money laundering. All have other charges pending against them.
Mike Yassine was found guilty on four counts. Hadi Yassine was found guilty on three counts.
U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks will sentence both brothers at a future date not made public.
"I was surprised by the verdict," said Gerry Morris, attorney for Hadi Yassine. "I don't think the evidence supported a conviction for Hadi. We have sentencing in 60 days or so. After that, we'll make a decision on an appeal."
Mike Yassine's attorney held a similar viewpoint.
"I love my country, but I do not trust my government," said David Botsford. "This was an abysmal prosecution with the government creating a crime where none existed. I'm appalled and embarrassed to be an American based on this kind of conduct. There's no way they should try to get family members to create crime by begging and pleading with someone to to do something. It's quite unfortunate."
The three brothers remain in custody because of the conviction of Hadi and Mike; Steve Yassine remains in custody because he still faces drug charges.
Mike, Steve and Hadi Yassine were among 10 people rounded up in a raid of Sixth Street nightclubs in late March in the culmination of an investigation that started in 2007. The clubs raided were Treasure Island Bar, Kiss & Fly, Pure and Fuel -- each owned by Yassine Enterprises.
The prosecutions case centered on testimony from a cousin of the bar owners, Mo Yassine, who had been work for the FBI as an informant for several years. Mo Yassine told jurors that the bars were used to launder thousands of dollars in drug money.
But he also acknowledged under questioning that he had used drugs and sometimes went missing while working for the FBI. Recorded conversations played in Sparks' courtroom also suggested that the Yassines may have suspected their cousin was working against them.
At one time he was asked if he was with the government.
Before the case went to the jury, defense attorneys argued that the government relied too heavily on information about drug deals -- charges that will come up in a future case.
They took issue with cousin Mo Yassine's reliability as a witness, accusing him of lying and stealing money from the government.
On Thursday, a criminal defense lawyer not associated with the case but familiar with federal court proceedings said it is not uncommon for a jury to take its time when dealing with complex testimony.
"With multiple defendants and the complexity of the money-laundering charges - in addition to the language issues with the tape recordings ... it's very common for a jury to deliberate a day or two in a case like this, sometimes longer," said attorney Sam Bassett.
"Money laundering by its very nature usually involves drug possession or drug sales, and its always difficult for jurors to separate out the two."
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