UPDATE: 11:15 a.m. The jury found LaRoque guilty on all 12 counts. (From WNCT reporter Katie Banks, click here for her story).
Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque is waiting to see if a dozen jurors believe he’s a thief, or if he’s an innocent man unfairly accused of stealing from a federally-funded economic development group he ran.
LaRoque is accused of stealing a $300,000 from an economic development non-profit funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but testified in the three-week trial that he was owed the money as part of a contract approved by his board of directors — which happened to consist of himself, his wife and brother.
LaRoque, 49, is facing a dozen criminal charges in the three-week trial held in front of Senior U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard at the federal courthouse in Greenville. If he were to be convicted of all 12 charges, and if Howard opted to stack the sentences, he could see a sentence of more than 90 years in prison.
Jurors went out to deliberate Wednesday afternoon, and spent all day Thursday behind closed doors. A foreperson told Howard that they expect to have a decision by the 4 p.m. today. The Kinston Free-Press had an article today about the court waiting for the jury, including some amusing anecdotes from Howard, a federal judge since 1988, debating how to feed the jury and whether withholding Snickers bars would hurry them up.
“I’m not going to send any more Snickers bars in there,” Howard told the jury.
The forewoman asked for some consideration when it came to lunch selection, since she said they work through the lunch period.
Howard suggested small sandwiches, like had been catered before, and noted female jurors appeared amenable to the idea while male jurors didn’t look as enthused.
One of the male jurors responded he’d be fine with McDonald’s.
For background on the case, you can read the initial N.C. Policy Watch investigation that prompted the federal investigation (click here), a summary of LaRoque’s July indictment, or posts I’ve written about the trial here, here and here (this post references LaRoque’s own testimony in the case.)
We’ll update this post as soon as we hear about a verdict, or you can follow me on Twitter, @SarahOvaska.