Archives

Uncategorized

Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque has a new court date – Oct. 10.

LaRoque, a former Kinston Republican convicted in June of stealing from federally-funded economic development groups he ran, is scheduled to be in court on a motion for a new hearing because of juror misconduct.

LaRoque-PC

Stephen LaRoque

The  hearing on a motion for a new trial is now scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 10 at the federal courthouse in Greenville.

Court documents filed by the prosecutor in the case, Dennis Duffy, said he and LaRoque’s attorneys have met to discuss the case as well, though the details of discussions were not divulged.

“During the last ten days, the parties have had an in-person meeting and numerous email communications regarding issues pertaining to this case,” Duffy wrote in a motion to continue a previously scheduled hearing

A juror in the case admitted doing home Internet research on IRS tax rules while jurors were considering whether or not to convict LaRoque. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard, who presided over LaRoque’s case, already set aside the jury’s verdict on two of the 12 charges LaRoque was initially convicted of and will decide whether LaRoque deserves a new trial on all the courts.

LaRoque has maintained his innocence from the beginning of the criminal case, saying that the $300,000 he is accused of stealing was owed to him as part of a lucrative benefits package from the small economic development non-profits funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture rural lending program.

You can read background on the juror issue here, or more about LaRoque’s criminal case here.

Uncategorized

Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque’s sentencing date has been delayed while his attorney renews concerns that juror misconduct in the case prevented the former state lawmaker from receiving a fair trial.

In a federal criminal case that’s been far from typical, the hearing next week in Greenville on a motion for a new trial could offer turn into an eleventh hour  reprieve for LaRoque, a Kinston Republican and onetime member of N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis’ leadership team.

LaRoque

LaRoque

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard, who presided over LaRoque’s jury trial this spring, issued an order Monday that LaRoque’s Sept. 12 sentencing be delayed and a hearing for a new trial be held in its place.

LaRoque faced likely prison time for his June conviction on 10 criminal charges related to the theft of $300,000 from two federally-funded economic development non-profits he ran as part of a rural lending program to help struggling businesses.

The former lawmaker maintained his innocence throughout his three-week jury trial this spring, and claimed that the money was not stolen but deferred compensation owed to him through generous contracts he had with the small non-profits. As prosecutors pointed out during the trial, the board of directors of the East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company consisted solely of LaRoques in recent years – Stephen LaRoque, his wife and brother.

Guilty verdicts on two additional tax fraud charges had already been set aside by Howard after a juror’s admission about looking up the IRS tax rules for individual-owned businesses, a violation of the explicit instructions given to jurors to only consider evidence presented in the courtroom.

LaRoque’s attorney, Joe Cheshire, filed a motion late last week indicating that the juror’s home research affected the entire case, and not just the tax fraud charges.

“If it were not for me conducting this home internet research, the juror would have remained hung on all counts indefinitely,” the juror wrote in an affidavit Cheshire included with his motion.

Also from Cheshire’s motion: Read More

Uncategorized

Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque was convicted today on a dozen charges related to the theft of funds from a federally-funded rural business lending program he ran for more than a decade in the eastern part of the state.

LaRoque, 49, a Kinston Republican, was convicted by a federal jury of

Stephen LaRoque after a 2012 court appearance.

Stephen LaRoque after a 2012 court appearance.

four counts of stealing from the federal program four counts of laundering the theft through financial transaction, two counts of concealing the theft and two counts of filing false statement on tax forms.

LaRoque showed little emotion upon hearing the guilty verdicts, according to WNCT reporter Katie Banks, who was in the courtroom.

His sentencing will be in September, and he was released on bond until then.  He faces a maximum punishment of more than 90 years in prison, along with significant fines.

LaRoque, a co-chair of the powerful House Rules Committee, had been in the N.C. House of Representatives until his July 2012 indictment, when he resigned.

Read More

Uncategorized

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.

Uncategorized

Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque told jurors that he made mistakes running two economic-development non-profits, but did not intentionally steal from the federally-funded charities.

“I made a lot of mistakes,” LaRoque told jurors. “I admit that.”

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican who served as a member of N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis’ leadership team until his 2012 indictment, is facing 12 criminal counts in a federal trial being held at the federal courthouse in Greenville. The federal probe stemmed from an August 2011 N.C. Policy Watch investigation that found LaRoque received generous salaries from the non-profit’s board of directors consisting of his immediate relatives.

Jurors have listened to more than two weeks of evidence about complex and complicated financial transactions and will begin deliberations on LaRoque’s guilt or innocence tomorrow.

He’s accused of using the bank accounts of the Kinston-based non-profits, East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company, to fund a lavish lifestyle including new cars, a Greenville ice-skating rink, a house, jewelry and replica Faberge eggs. LaRoque says he is innocent of any wrongdoing and any money in question was owed to him through contracts approved by his board of directors (who consisted for many years of himself, his wife and brother).

He faces more than 90 years in prison, if the jury were to convict him on all 12 charges.

On the stand Tuesday, LaRoque said he didn’t report all of his generous terms of his salary to auditors, accountants and the IRS but instead kept that money in East Carolina Development Company’s accounts with the assumption that he could withdraw it whenever he wanted.

Read More