bill austin testifies starkey trial

Starkey Owner Takes the Stand

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA — The trial of former Starkey president Jerry Ruzicka and three others accused of stealing more than $20 million from Starkey through the illegal transfer of restricted stock resumed during the week of February 5th after a one week Super Bowl break.

The resumption of the trial was highlighted by the testimony of Starkey owner, Bill Austin, who testified on behalf of prosecutors over the course of several days in the fraud case against several former executives from his company.

Dee DePass, Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter, has been covering the trial. Notable trial events over the past two weeks include:

Early last week, the judge overseeing the Starkey Laboratories fraud case ruled defense attorneys for Ruzicka and his co-defendants can question company owner Bill Austin about his personal life and character, a tactical win for the four men accused of crimes.


Bill Austin Testifies


Bill Austin, Starkey Founder & CEO

On Friday, February 9, according to DePass, Austin revealed to the court that he never gave fired Ruzicka permission to buy a stake in other companies or to include stock in a subsidiary as compensation for himself and other executives. Austin also told the court that he felt betrayed by his former executive. The prosecutors also played a 45-minute video recording made without Ruzicka’s knowledge shortly before he was escorted off the property by sheriff’s deputies in the fall of 2015.

On February 12th, the trial focused on how company assets were transferred from Starkey’s Northland U.S. LLC subsidiary to a new entity called Northland Hearing Centers Inc. On the stand for the second day, Austin told the court that he had never seen important financial statements addressed to Starkey’s board of directors of which he is the sole member.


In what appears to be gripping testimony, on Tuesday, February 13th, Austin shared with the court his transition from modest business owner to billionaire philanthropist. DePass writes that during six hours on the stand and intense questioning from four different defense attorneys, Austin talked more about how he did not always read documents but trusted his executives and counsel to tell him about what they said and then signed the papers. Austin winds up his time on the stand on February 14th.


A full account of each day’s trial from DePass can be found at the links above.


Source: Minneapolis StarTribune