The voice on the phone promised payment, mentioned switching test tubes around and said that meeting in person would be worth the DNA analyst’s while.
Joseph Choquette, a DNA analyst at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, was spooked. He changed his work hours and considered asking security to escort him to his vehicle.
To authorities, the interaction was an attempt to coerce and bribe Choquette.
But Joseph Trent Mosby, who works as an investigator for attorneys, said he was only trying to serve a subpoena to Choquette to serve as an expert witness for the defense in a Sarpy County sexual assault case.
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Choquette told police that he has served as an expert witness in trials but never had received a subpoena in the fashion employed by Mosby.
Mosby, who has posted $1,500 for his release from jail, will stand trial on one charge of tampering with a witness, Douglas County Judge Sheryl Lohaus ruled Wednesday.
Mosby, 55, said after the hearing that the charge has put his life in disarray.
In an October phone interview after The World-Herald first published news of a warrant seeking Mosby’s arrest, Mosby said he had been “disenfranchised by the city of Omaha.”
“Where are these facts coming from?” he said. “(It’s) a one-sided version of some poppycock.”
Omaha Police Detective Stephan Skaar testified that Choquette’s co-worker first received a strange call from “Trent” on July 25, who asked to talk to “Joe.”
The voice said it was a secret, and when the co-worker said she could keep a secret, the voice responded, “The only way to keep a secret is with a shovel in the desert.”
A few days later, “Trent” called again and talked to Choquette. Trent offered to meet Choquette at a coffee shop to discuss something but wouldn’t elaborate further. Skaar testified that Trent also offered payment, mentioned that mistakes can happen when test tubes get switched around, asked about Choquette’s work hours and then said he would see Choquette at work the next day.
That next day, Mosby appeared in the lobby of the UNMC laboratory. An Omaha police detective who happened to be at the lab to collect evidence spoke to Mosby. Mosby identified himself and said he wanted to serve Choquette with a subpoena.
The detective said, “This is a strange way of conducting business,” Skaar testified. Mosby asked whether the detective was threatening him, then puffed out his chest and stormed away, Skaar said.
Choquette had been worried about the strange calls because he had been working on a homicide case that had involved allegations of witness tampering. He told authorities that he was afraid the person would cause him harm.
But Assistant Public Defender Travis Wampler said Choquette’s “paranoia” doesn’t make the situation a witness-tampering case.
“The evidence here today would show that Mosby was serving a validly issued subpoena,” Wampler said. “There’s nothing in any of the phone conversations that indicate he’s trying to influence any testimony. ... It may be unusual, but this is not a preliminary hearing for terroristic threats.”