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Jury deadlocked in forgery case against Healdsburg winery owner

A Mendocino County jury on Wednesday declared it was deadlocked on verdicts in the convoluted case of a Healdsburg winery owner charged with forging signatures on 57 checks while working as the finance officer for Brutocao Cellars in Hopland.

It's now up to District Attorney David Eyster to decide whether to refile or drop the charges against Chris Mulcahy, co-owner of Sapphire Hill Winery. District Attorney spokesman Mike Geniella said the case is under review.

Mulcahy's attorney, Justin Petersen, said he expects the case to be refiled and a new trial date set next week. It would be out of character for Eyster to let the case die, he said.

"I don't think there's any chance he'll let it drop," Petersen said.

Petersen said he's disappointed by the hung jury.

"It's not the outcome anyone would want," he said.

Before they declared an impasse, the jury was leaning toward convictions, voting 10-2 in favor on each of the 57 counts of check forgery, Geniella said.

Over nearly three weeks, the jury was presented with conflicting testimony and mounds of contested paperwork about the forged checks, the Brutocao family and Mulcahy, who formerly worked for Coca-Cola.

Many of the checks were written to shell companies belonging to Mulcahy and deposited to his bank account, according to testimony during the trial. Mulcahy told investigators the shell companies were created to reduce Brutocao's tax liabilities and at the behest of Brutocao founder Len Brutocao, who died in 2010.

Petersen, contended at trial that Mulcahy had permission to sign checks with the name of Brutocao's co-owner and president Steve Brutocao. He also said Mulcahy had written the checks to himself because the Brutocao family owed him money. He said the Brutocaos still owe Mulcahy about $70,000.


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