SAN ANGELO, Texas (KSAN/KLST) – John Stacy Young, 57, sentenced to eleven years behind bars for forgery for conspiring with Ray Zapata to forge a will and claim the estate of Santa Rita millionaire John Edward Sullivan, re-appeared in the Tom Green County Courthouse January 9. Sullivan’s estate was estimated to be $8 million dollars. Sullivan died June 4, 2014.
Tuesday, the defense called a new witness to the stand who claims that Young had no part in writing the will: Katie Hartman, Christianson (Chris) Hartman’s estranged ex-wife, in a sworn affidavit claims that Chris Hartman, who was granted immunity from the case was more involved than once presumed — she claims she saw Chris Hartman forge the will.
Chris Hartman was the attorney hired by Young to take care of the will, which was filed less than 24 hours after Sullivan’s body was found by Zapata.
New trail papers were filed at the Tom Green County Courthouse on Dec. 8 by Young’s attorneys, Frank Sellers and Daniel Hurley. The defense seeks a retrial for Young.
The defense team spent the morning questioning the prosecutors with the Texas Attorney General’s Office who worked on the case, Johnathan White and Shane Attaway.
The defense team contend that exculpatory evidence was withheld from them when Katie Hartman had contacted officials at the Attorney General’s office with information about the case. The team questioned the witnesses over their familiarity with the Brady Rule (Brady v. Maryland) which in part means “evidence the prosecutor is required to disclose under this rule includes any evidence favorable to the accused — evidence that goes towards negating a defendant’s guilt, that would reduce a defendant’s potential sentence, or evidence going to the credibility of a witness.”
Katie Hartman said she tried to contact several officials, including the Attorney General’s Office, but was turned down. She wanted to testify to her ex-husband’s involvement in the case but was told the trail was almost over. The defense, in questioning one witness, made calls from the witness stand from a smartphone to numbers recorded in Katie Hartman’s phone records. The calls connected to the Texas Attorney General’s Office and other officials.
In a memo introduced into evidence, the terms “I don’t want him to get away with it,” “I know too much,” “tired of them getting away with it,” and “shady actions” were the subject of much discussion as to whether these would have or should have triggered an exculpatory evidence action from the prosecution that was denied to the defense.
Defense attorneys argued that the prosecutors never considered that Chris Hartman could have forged the will and didn’t subject him to the same handwriting scrutiny as was done with Zapata and Young.
Prosecutors said the analysis showed the handwriting in the will was Zapata’s, but that the defense argued the will was authentic. With the new evidence, they say the defense now acknowledges the will is a forgery.
In her testimony, Katie Hartman claims to have seen Chris Hartman writing in a book that looked similar to a Bible in his office on June 2, 2014. She claims her husband told her he was “fixing the will” or “doctoring” (his word) the will.
She claims in the affidavit that she saw her husband sign the will, but under prosecution questioning, admitted that was an assumption on her part.
She also claims that Chris Hartman “was the mastermind” behind the whole thing and spent a lot of time bragging about his role in handling the Sullivan case, that he was in control of the estate, not Young or Zapata. When asked if she thought her husband was an actual mastermind, she claimed “he is an idiot.”
The trial took an unexpected turn when a note was passed from a spectator in the courtroom to the prosecution. The defense immediately asked for a copy of the note and some discussion about the incident and its propriety followed.
Under prosecution questioning, drug and alcohol use by Katie Hartman was examined. A medical diagnosis of bipolar disorder was acknowledged and prescription drugs to control the disorder, along with other prescriptions for various health issues was discussed. She said she was an admitted and recovering alcoholic, and was in treatment at the Serenity House in Abilene when John Young was indicted and knew little of the case.
Katie Hartman testified that while at the Serenity house, calls were received from Chris Hartman and she only accepted them because they were “emergency” calls and, being a mother, that the calls may involve the children in some way. Instead, she said her husband asked her if she was watching the news about John (she said no) and that “they were going to be OK” and “it is every man for himself and I’m going to be OK.”
She testified “when she found out that Chris had been granted immunity, it upset me.” That was when she tried to call officials with her knowledge of the case, but was told “it was too late” and “nothing could be done.”
Katie Hartman testified that Chris Hartman had revoked her bond on a charge which landed her in jail. He also immediately got her out of jail, and she had just taken her medicines when Nick Hanna appeared at her door. At that time she decided not to talk with him, and later testified that she had no trust for Hanna, that she could not trust him.
When shown the will, she claimed it looked like Chris Hartman’s handwriting. A known copy of Chris Hartman’s handwriting and the will were compared by her and she noted the similarities she saw in the handwriting on the documents which were admitted as evidence.
Prosecutors questioned the accuracy of her affidavit and whether she had reviewed it, noting one glaring error, her maiden name was incorrect at the top — “Sims” was written instead of “Smith.”
Katie Hartman also testified about her estranged husband’s temper and threats he had made to her. She claims he told her “he knows how to hide a body” and “will keep her from her children.” She said that if “anyone thinks this is fun for me, they are wrong.”
“I just want the truth to come out, I’m just being honest. I was witness to a molestation years ago and I have to live with that because I didn’t say anything. I have to say what I know, I do not want to be quiet and then have to live with that the rest of my life.”
Note: Chris Hartman was given partial immunity for testimony in John Young’s trial. He had lied to a grand jury about money dealings with Zapata that were tied to Young’s case.
Court will resume Wednesday January 10, at 10:00 a.m.