Chris Burrow, former CFO of the Episcopal School of Dallas, called Nathan Campbell and attempted to influence his testimony prior to the civil trial’s beginning, the plaintiffs’ attorneys alleged in court Friday.
Playing audiotapes obtained from Campbell’s criminal defense lawyer, plaintiffs’ attorney Brent Walker showed that, contrary to Burrow’s testimony, the CFO did consider Campbell a friend and wished to help him. Burrow opened one of the recorded conversations by calling Campbell “buddy.” Later, he told Campbell he wanted “to pass on a little information that might be helpful,” and that there was “nothing to lose.”
While on the stand Wednesday, Burrow said the purpose of his calls to Campbell was to get information and conduct an investigation. But in the recorded conversations, Burrow said he didn’t have any questions and wasn’t going to ask Campbell anything.
“He’s trying to help the sex offender,” Walker told Judge D’Metria Benson, who will rule on whether or not this evidence can be heard in the presence of the jury.
Campbell made the recordings on the advice of his criminal attorney, Mark Nancarrow. The tapes cover two voicemails Burrow left for Campbell as well as two live conversations. All of the recordings took place in October 2010 after Burrow had been deposed.
At one point, Burrow told Campbell that Jane Doe II was unsure of her age the first time they had sex.
“That’s really, really important for you,” Burrow said, adding he thought it would “work in [Campbell’s] favor.”
When Campbell asked Burrow if there was anything he wanted him to say “on behalf of the school,” Burrow responded by bringing up the fact that no evidence existed to prove Campbell used the school’s credit card, vehicles, or email system inappropriately.
“The case is weak,” Burrow said, adding, “It’s just her word.”
Campbell also asked Burrow if there was anything he needed to do.
“One thing you need to make sure you do is protect me on this in terms of sharing information with you,” Burrow said, adding, “Rebecca and I both are very, very hopeful you come out of this in the best, best possible way you can.”
Campbell told Burrow he appreciated the sentiment.
On the stand, Charla Aldous specifically asked Burrow if he ever used the phrase “bide your time” with Campbell. Burrow said he didn’t recall using it, but the recording showed him stating it three times in a row before instructing Campbell to drag out his criminal case as long as possible.
“Chris Burrow tried to give the jury the impression that he was working against Nathan Campbell,” Walker said Friday. “But he was working with him.”
ESD’s attorneys questioned the authenticity and relevance of the recordings. Former U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins, who had yet to be involved with the case before Friday, argued before the judge in place of ESD co-counsels Chrysta Castañeda and Royce West, neither of whom were present.
“It’s the trustworthiness of the original tapes that’s the underlying issue,” Coggins said, explaining that he believed the recordings were incomplete or tampered with.
Burrow was not in the courtroom Friday, but his attorney, Joseph Cox, was. He said the tapes were not reliable, “because people don’t identify themselves.” However, the two men on the recordings call each other “Nathan” and “Chris.”
Cynthia Timms, another ESD attorney, defended Burrow’s foggy memory. He consistently answered that he “did not recall” specific details he discussed with Campbell when questioned on the stand by Aldous.
“Shocking events can affect your memory,” Timms said.
Walker offered that Campbell could be called to testify about the authenticity of the recordings and the conversations as he remembered them.
Benson is expected to issue a ruling on the evidence’s admissibility no later than Monday.
UPDATE 4:45 p.m.
I just received a statement from ESD via Rick Erickson of The LeMaster Group. Here it is in its entirety.
Statement from ESD
“We were taken aback this morning when we first heard the contents of the audio tapes that are purportedly the voices of ESD’s former CFO and the former teacher who is facing sexual assault charges. No one was authorized to speak, on the schools behalf and all ESD officials were instructed not to talk to Nathan Campbell who resigned shortly after he was discovered with the former student in a Farmers Branch parking lot. Chris Burrow has been on leave from the school since December 2010. That’s when the school was notified by attorneys that indeed some communications apparently transpired between them. Even without knowing the content of those conversations, we took the administrative action against Burrow.
“Our attorneys have advised us that the recording does not meet the legal requirements to be played for the jury. Nevertheless, the accusations being made about the content of the tapes are deeply troubling and disquieting to the entire community.”