Jury hears taped conversation in Lufkin counselors' trial

Juanda Morgan mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Juanda Morgan mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Mark Sutton mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Mark Sutton mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.

By Jena Johnson - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Jurors heard the recorded conversation Tuesday afternoon in the perjury trial of two Lufkin professional counselors.

Jurors heard Juanda Morgan and Mike Shelfo laughing, making small talk at the beginning of the conversation, followed by Shelfo expressing his concerns surrounding his children's well-being.

The jury listened intently to the recording, following along with a transcript of the conversation. Morgan had previously testified that Shelfo yelled at her during that conversation that was recorded without her knowledge. From the conversation that was played for the jury, it appeared there was no yelling as Morgan had previously claimed.

The man who taped a conversation between himself and a Lufkin counselor testified that he felt compelled to do so because of concerns.

"I had concerns with the inconsistency of the counseling evaluations," Mike Shelfo said.

Shelfo began to explain his reasoning for going to Juanda Morgan's office on Feb. 27. He testified, "I  wanted to address my concerns with what I was being told when I left therapy sessions and what my ex-wife was telling me."

Following the advice of his divorce attorney, Jimmy Cassels, Shelfo said he took his Sony recorder with him to the meeting. He testified he placed the recorder in the left pocket of his scrubs, turning it on as he walked into Morgan's office.

Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington asked Shelfo to describe the meeting's atmosphere. Shelfo said it was relaxed and tense at times.

Then Herrington asked Shelfo if he ever became antagonizing during the course of the hour and fifteen minute meeting.

"I wasn't pleased that I was told there's been an ongoing problem. I'm sure that I was aggravated," said Shelfo.

Shelfo testified the meeting ended cordially. "We said, well we'll see how things go. I don't recall exactly what I said. She made it clear to me that she wanted to see the boys more and I made it clear to her that was not communicated to me."

Shelfo testified bits of the conversation had been recorded over when he accidentally hit the record button; however, he said this did not significantly change the conversation.

When the defense asked Shelfo if he is aggressive and intimidating towards women, Shelfo testified, "No, I don't believe that I am."

Shelfo explained as he was transcribing the tape, he would press stop, rewind, play repeatedly.

He said he would inadvertently hit record. Tunnel questioned the number of times he hit record. At first, shelfo testified "he did not recall." When pressured to answer Tunnel's question, Shelfo said it was greater than two but less than twenty.

The state called Lee Miller of  MSG Public Relations to the witness stand. Miller testified his company analyzed the tape's authenticity.

"We were asked whether the context of the conversation had been changed," Miller testified. "We were looking to see if the tape itself had been physically doctored."

Miller said he did not believe the breaks effect the context or the conversation at all.

"We found the entire conversation consistent," Miller said.

Miller said there were eight to ten places on the tape where the record button has been hit by accident.

"The longest break was four seconds long," Miller said. "We believe there's been no tampering of the actual conversation on this tape."

Miller explained to the jury that his company tested the recorder's capabilities by taping multiple conversations in their sound booth. He testified he compared their taped conversations to Shelfo's conversation and checked for audible differences.

Cassels said Wednesday morning that he advised his client to record his conversation with Juanda Morgan.

Cassels said the tape was produced as evidence at the end of the April child custody hearing.

Juanda Morgan and Mark Sutton, two married, Lufkin licensed professional counselors, are on trial for aggravated perjury due to what Shelfo said is a taped conversation between himself and Morgan. Morgan had testified in a custody hearing that Shelfo acted in a menacingly way during the conversation.

Cassels testified in trial Wednesday that Morgan had a "fallen look" when he told her in the April hearing about the tape. The defense asked why he did not tell Shelfo's ex-wife's lawyer about the tape and he said because he thought Shelfo's ex-wife would "definitely give it to Mrs. Morgan in a matter of seconds."

Cassels testified that at the April hearing he gave Morgan the opportunity to change her story after telling her there was a tape recording of the conversation in question. He testified she said "I have described to you the fact. Loud, rapid blaming, shaming, verbal mud and that lasted quote a while. Whatever you want to label that."

"I gave her the opportunity and that's what she answered," Cassels said.

It was revealed Tuesday that at the April hearing, Cassels asked Morgan if she would describe Shelfo's behavior during the conversation as mildly upset or more as rage. Through questioning, Tunnel explained by Cassels only giving Morgan two choices, she was cornered to choose "rage." Cassels said he chose "rage" as a choice because Sutton had described his behavior as rage.