All eyes were glued to Marcus Barrington as he testified Thursday in front of a 13–member jury at the federal courthouse in Tallahassee.
Declaring his innocence, Barrington tried to explain his role in reference to the grade changes in 2007 that led to his federal indictment on five counts of aggravated identity theft, unauthorized computer access and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Last fall, Barrington was indicted along with Christopher Jacquette, 27, and Lawrence Secrease, 22, who have pled guilty and are testifying against him. All three were accused of accepting money to make the changes to grades and residency status of 90 students.
“I didn’t solicit anybody and I didn’t do it,” said Barrington, 23, responding to questions.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Mountin told jurors there were 650 grade changes, 124 of which affected failing grades.
According to a prosecution witness, the grade changes cost Florida A&M University about $130,000. Since a failing grade normally required a student to retake a course they must pay for, FAMU would lose that money, the prosecution asserted.
During his several hours on the stand, Barrington maintained eye contact with the jurors and cited his on-campus achievements and memberships to various law oriented organizations.
Barrington recently graduated from FAMU with a double major in psychology and business.
He said he received his degree in psychology, but because of a transcript problem, he has yet to receive his degree in business.
Barrington testified that three business related classes, for which he received A’s, are missing from his transcript. He told the jury that Jacquette had warned him in a threatening tone that he would mess up his transcript.
Barrington later testified that Jacquette told him he had a loyalty issues and he did not feel comfortable around him.
Jacquette and Secrease were mentioned throughout Barrington’s testimony, as the defendant tried to convince jurors he had nothing to do with the grade changes.
According to Barrington, Jacquette wanted to change his grades in order to graduate, because he had been at FAMU for 10 years.
“He needed the grade changes,” Barrington said. “Grade changes were important to him.”
Prior to Barrington’s testimony, the prosecutor displayed evidence showing how Barrington’s grade was changed. The conspirators allegedly installed a keystroke logger on various computers in the registrar’s office that transmitted the data to an email account they created specifically for that purpose. With the stolen passwords, they were able to access student records to change the grade and residency status.
When asked about his knowledge of computers, Barrington said he knows mostly about Google, Facebook or Myspace, but is not technically savvy enough to hack into a system and change a grade.
“…as it relates to programming and platforms, I don’t know,” Barrington said.
Dressed in a dark gray suit and a metallic gold tie, Barrington tried to explain his relationship with Secrease and Jacquette. The Orlando native testified that Secrease was his friend and roommate at Seminole Suites apartment complex, while Jacquette was more of an associate.
Because of Jacquette’s later threats, uneasiness, and claiming he belonged to a street gang, the Crypts, Barrington said he filed a restraining order against him. He claimed that Jacquette owned two guns, a .45 and an AK-47.
Later in his testimony, Barrington said FAMU’s Police Department Sgt. Sherri Luke questioned him about his knowledge of the grade changes. He admitted that he lied when he told her he knew nothing.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Friday morning, and jury deliberations should begin afterwards.