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October 16, 2018

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The Latest: Ex-nonprofit executive cleared in contract case

Updated Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018 | 8:39 p.m.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The Latest on the South Dakota trial of an ex-nonprofit executive accused of backdating contracts to try to avoid a potential audit (all times local):

10:35 p.m.

A South Dakota jury has cleared a former nonprofit executive accused of backdating contracts to try to avoid a potential audit.

Stacy Phelps was found not guilty late Thursday night of backdating the contracts between the nonprofit and an educational cooperative. Defense attorney Dana Hanna said during trial the evidence showed Phelps didn't commit any crimes.

Attorney General Marty Jackley argued the case was about a "cover-up" of the nonprofit's financial dealings.

Phelps was the second and final person to face trial in a sprawling case known as Gear Up. The first hint of major issues came after the nonprofit's chief financial officer, Scott Westerhuis, shot his wife, his four children and then himself in 2015.

The deaths spurred a financial investigation that led to charges against Phelps and two others.

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3:25 p.m.

A South Dakota jury is weighing the case of a former nonprofit executive accused of backdating contracts to try to avoid a potential audit.

The Argus Leader reports that closing arguments were Thursday in the trial of Stacy Phelps. Prosecutors highlighted discrepancies in Phelps' testimony, trying to convince jurors he had a motive for wanting to avoid an audit of the nonprofit he headed.

But defense attorney Dana Hanna deflected blame from Phelps, saying he got played by the nonprofit's chief financial officer, Scott Westerhuis. Westerhuis was embezzling money before he killed his family and then himself in September 2015.

Phelps is the second and final person to face trial in a sprawling case known as Gear Up. The deaths spurred a financial investigation that led to charges against Phelps and two others in 2016.