After closing arguments Friday, the jury took only two hours to
reach not guilty verdicts in the remaining charges against Billy
Thornton. He was acquitted of 2 fraud counts and two counts of
making a false statement. He had been charged with 166 counts, but
all but these four counts were thrown out Thursday.
As reported earlier, Thornton faced a
potential of 15 years in prison and up to a $500,000 fine for each
count. After the verdict, he said he was "elated." "Right now, all
I want to do is relax and sleep," said Thornton to the AP.
Jurors said that the prosecution had not shown that Thornton had
neglected to do his job. They said that the trial had shown
shortcomings in the way NASA inspects the work of contractors.
"There was no defined protocol or set of rules for him to
follow," said jury foreman Mark Dean, 45, of Orlando to the AP.
"(NASA) needs to look at the inspection system, about how they
check inspections. There are just a lot of gaps in NASA's oversight
Joyce McArthur told the AP that her fellow jurors had a lot of
doubt about the prosecution's case and found NASA's guidelines
unclear. "I think a lot of this had to do with Columbia," said
McArthur. "They needed a scapegoat."