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John Tom kept waiting for a smoking gun. A 63-year-old real estate agent and Army veteran, Tom had been sitting in a federal jury box in Alexandria, Va., for more than two months, listening to prosecutors talk about what they said was a vast, multimillion-dollar conspiracy between executives at America Online Inc. and officials at PurchasePro.com Inc., a Las Vegas software firm. Tom trusted the government. He came to court every day expecting the prosecution to be fair and to uphold justice — an expectation that went all the way back to his junior high school civics class. But as prosecutors drew to the end of their case, he felt like he’d seen only what he calls “tidbits” of proof. “When the prosecution rested, I was astounded; I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop,” he says. “We were all waiting for something drastic to fall into our laps, and it never happened.”

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