The table was set. Lori McMahan would either testify against her husband or, preferably, convince him to plead guilty to a felony and resign as the state auditor and inspector.
In return, she would receive immunity for her admitted crimes involving businessman Steve Phipps, whose companies were regulated by the auditor’s office.
The deal was nixed when Lori McMahan couldn’t recall whether her husband attended a 2002 dinner meeting where Phipps handed her $10,000 in cash.
Jurors will hear about that Wednesday at the criminal trial of Jeff and Lori McMahan. They’re likely to also hear prosecutors question Lori McMahan about her memory gaps concerning key events.
The proposed deal for her immunity was made at the FBI office in Oklahoma City in late October. The fifth-grade teacher remembers the approximate date because she was wearing a Halloween sweater, the same one she’d worn to school that day.
The meeting occurred two months after the FBI served a search warrant on the McMahans’ home in Tecumseh. During the search, Lori McMahan admitted she had accepted cash and jewelry from Phipps. A prosecutor suggested she gave conflicting versions when confronted with inconsistencies.
“I had made a mistake, and I was willing to take responsibility for my sins,” she said, explaining her reason for the admission.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gay Guthrie wasn’t impressed with some of Lori McMahan’s answers during a hearing outside the jury’s presence to determine whether she could testify about the immunity offer.
“The point of all this is, she lied then (to the FBI), and she’s lying now,” Guthrie told U.S. District Judge James H. Payne.
Payne ruled that the auditor’s wife can testify about the immunity offer.