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LaRoque trial may get pushed back

Both federal prosecutors and the attorney for former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque are asking to push back an October trial date on federal theft charges to February of next year.

In a joint motion filed on Thursday, assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Duffy and Raleigh defense attorney Joe Cheshire cited the complexity of the charges filed against LaRoque in asking U.S Senior District Court Judge Malcolm Howard for the delay.

“If this case were ultimately to proceed to trial, the parties would need to present a significant amount of financial evidence and a relatively large number of witnesses,” Duffy wrote in the motion. “The parties intend to engage in a significant amount of discussions to reach stipulations and agree on the admissibility of summary exhibits in order to streamline the presentation of each side’s evidence.”

LaRoque, 49, of Kinston, was indicted by a Raleigh-based federal grand jury in July and

LaRoque

charged with four counts of stealing from a federally-funded program and four additional counts of conducting financial transactions with the money.

He faces up to 10 years in prison on each count.

LaRoque, who resigned from office following the indictment, has denied any wrongdoing in his management of East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company, the two small non-profits LaRoque ran.

The non-profits were funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural lending program that lends federal money at one percent interest to charities like LaRoque’s to then lend the money to businesses in struggling rural areas.

But federal prosecutors believe LaRoque instead used some of the federally-sourced funds to support lavish lifestyles for him and his family. In a 72-page indictment, LaRoque is accused of using the non-profits to buy reproduction Fabergé eggs, a Greenville ice-skating rink and Zamboni, a truck and a house for his stepdaughter.

LaRoque was the subject of an August 2011 investigative report by N.C. Policy Watch that raised questions about the Kinston Republican’s management of the non-profits. At the time, LaRoque was the co-chair of the powerful N.C. House Rules Committee.

The motion to delay the trial, which was tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9, is awaiting a decision from Howard, the Greenville-based federal judge.

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