PRESTONSBURG — Thursday marked the first hearing in the case of Martin v. Conn, the lawsuit brought by Prestonsburg attorney Ned Pillersdorf and two representative plaintiffs, on behalf of the 900 who had seen their Social Security disability benefits suspended, against Eric C. Conn and his law firm.
The first witness called in the case was Eric C. Conn himself, who was not present at the hearing. Counsel for Conn argued that Conn himself had not been subpoenaed.
Next, Pillersdorf called Jamie Lynn Slone, and later, Melinda Lynn Martin Hicks, former employees of the Conn law office. In their testimonies, their affirmed claims made in previous affidavits: that, after a critical Wall Street Journal piece, Conn became nervous, paranoid, and feared being recorded.
Hicks testified that Conn told her and others, “I never left a paper trail, we should be fine,” and that if anything were to happen, he would go to Cuba to avoid extradition. She testified that nearly all the office’s employees were involved destroying documents and records—that Conn directed so many documents be burned that it took nearly two weeks, in addition to hiring Shred-All Documents in Pikeville to destroy others and asking an employee to hit a computer with a hammer and burn it.
Slone testified that employees were told to delete e-mails.
Hicks also testified that under Conn’s direction, employees sent money orders overseas for both business and personal reasons. The business, she testified, Conn referred to as “a boom-boom room.”
Pillersdorf also called to the stand his two representative plaintiffs, Cheryl Martin and Robert Martin (who are not related). Both are battling advanced cancer and other ailments, both require numerous expensive medications, and both face immediate harm from the discontinuation of their disability benefits.
Pillersdorf revisited the issue of Conn’s absence after the other witnesses took the stand. In cross examination, Conn’s lawyer, Kent Wicker, repeatedly asked witnesses if they were aware Conn was still practicing in Stanville, and that he never fled to Cuba. Pillersdorf says that, if he is still in Kentucky as his attorneys say, he should attend the hearing and take the stand.
Judge Johnny Ray Harris sided with Pillersdorf, ordering that the case be continued Wednesday morning and that Conn is compelled to attend. Harris also confirmed that the restraining order against Conn destroying evidence or moving assets would stay in place. By request of Conn’s counsel, that order has been amended to allow Conn to pay employees and normal business expenses, but no money is to leave the country.
After the hearing, Joseph Lambert of Conn’s legal defense team reiterated the point that fault lies with the Social Security Administration, not his client. He says Conn has expressed apology on behalf of the SSA, but Conn’s being the common denominator in the matter is the result of pressure from Senate investigators who otherwise have not been able to criminally implicate Conn.
Pillersdorf said this lawsuit is of critical importance for his clients; should the injunction sought against the Social Security Administration fail, his 900 clients would be without other recourse.
Fortunately for them, at 2:30 Thursday afternoon, Congressman Hal Rogers announced his office was able to intervene and get Pillersdorf’s clients their benefits back for the time being. The lawsuits, Pillersdorf says, will proceed, to hold the SSA and Conn accountable.
Speaking about Conn’s presence as the case continues, Pillersdorf remarked, “I’ll be surprised if he’s here Wednesday.”