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Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque  has apparently fired Joe Cheshire, the Raleigh attorney that represented him during a trial last year that ended in convictions for the former lawmaker.

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican who stepped down from the legislature after his federal indictment, was convicted in June of stealing funds from two federally-funded economic development groups he ran. He asked for a new trial after a juror admitted doing outside research during verdict deliberations. Read More

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There’s another delay in the federal criminal case of former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque, with a hearing for a new trial pushed back to Sept. 24.

LaRoque, who was convicted by a jury in June of stealing from federally-funded non-profits he ran, wants a new trial after a juror said he voted to convict the former lawmaker in a trial this spring only after doing independent research on tax laws. Jurors are barred from considering evidence or testimony outside of what was presented in court.

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican and onetime member of N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis’ leadership team, is facing a likely prison sentence and was initially scheduled to be sentenced Thursday on 10 of the 12 federal charges. Two of the other charges had been previously set aside by a federal judge because of the juror misconduct.

The new hearing will be at 10 a.m. on Sept. 24 at the federal courthouse in Greenville, in front of Senior U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard, who has presided over the case.

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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

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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.

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A jury could decide this afternoon if former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque stole $300,000 from federally-funded non-profits he ran or if the money was his to begin with.

Convictions on the more than dozen charges LaRoque faces could mean a maximum 90-year prison sentence.

“This case is about a simple money grap,” said Dennis Duffy, the federal prosecutor in the case, to jurors.

LaRoque

LaRoque

LaRoque’s attorney, Joe Cheshire, disagreed, saying, “”If he did, then all the money he took was his own money.”

LaRoque, 49, a Kinston Republican who stepped down from the House of Representatives following his July 2012 indictment, is accused of dipping into the bank accounts of two U.S. Department of Agriculture economic development groups to fund extravagant purchases like expensive jewelry and a Greenville ice skating rink business.

LaRoque founded both of the economic development groups, East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company, and took in nearly $2 million in compensation since 1997. The groups had taken in received $8 million in USDA loans as part of an anti-poverty program that loaned out money to small businesses in struggling rural areas.

Prosecutors contend that LaRoque saw the non-profits as his own companies, stacked the boards with his immediate family members and illegally used the federally-sourced funds to buy two cars, a house, a Greenville ice skating rink, expensive jewelry and replica Faberge eggs.

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