Texas Ranger details conversation with Lufkin counselor

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

By Jena Johnson - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Nearly all of the testimony on Thursday in the perjury trial of two Lufkin counselors came from a Texas Ranger.

Texas Ranger Pete Maskunas testified that on behalf of District Attorney Clyde Herrington's request, he contacted Juanda Morgan by telephone and set up an interview.

The jury listened to the taped interview from July 23, 2008, between Maskunas and Morgan Wednesday morning.

"The problems that we have here is your testimony in court," said Maskunas to Morgan.

As Maskunas questioned Morgan about Mike Shelfo's behavior on Feb. 27, Morgan said he wasn't extremely loud for very long.

"The statements as to what you're telling me now is different from what you told the judge," said Maskunas.

"I explained to her we were doing an investigation on a very serious felony offense," Maskunas testified.

During the interview played for the jurors, the defense pointed out there were several moments where Morgan laughs and sounds light hearted.

The defense said Morgan handles tense situation with laughter when others might not.

"In both circumstances she is laughing and appears upbeat," said Maskunas.

Day 3 of the trial began with the defense questioning a state witness who said a recorded conversation was authentic.

Mark Sutton's attorney, Albert Charanza, questioned Lee Miller, of MSG Public Relations, on his experience and level of expertise in forensics analysis. Miller testified he considered himself an expert for the past five years.

In previous testimony, Miller said he listened to the recording with his "critical" ear multiple times. Charanza questioned if it would be fair to say the jury was listening with their "critical" ear during Wednesday's playing of the recording.

"I would say so," Miller testified.

Sutton and his wife, Juanda Morgan, are on trial this week on aggravated perjury charges, stemming from a recorded conversation between Morgan and Mike Shelfo. Morgan testified in an April 2008 hearing that Shelfo yelled at her in a conversation. Shelfo revealed he had recorded the conversation and he was not yelling at her.

Morgan was arrested two days before Christmas in 2008 on five counts of aggravated perjury. Her husband was arrested on Christmas Eve on two counts.

For Martha and Keith Sutton, watching their son and daughter-in-law stand trial for perjury charges is devastating.

"It's almost like torture," Keith Sutton said.

"I think it's cast a gloom over the family," Martha Sutton said.

"That they could go down because of an opinion or whether they spoke loudly or softly," Keith Sutton said. "To me, it's a travesty of justice."

As the Suttons continue to watch this trial unfold, they fear the worst.

"They have their whole livelihood, mark and juanda, they will lose their license, they will not be able to practice their counseling service," Keith Sutton said. "It's like a huge weight hanging over my head."

"I will be devastated," Martha Sutton said. "I just think it cannot be."

The Suttons are hopeful this Christmas will be one filled with rejoice, surrounded by their family members, who they say are innocent.

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