“A federal judge Wednesday upheld former Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence’s fraud and conspiracy convictions and denied his request for a new trial, setting the stage for his sentencing to prison in November.
Judge Cathy Seibel said the jury acted on sufficient evidence and did not find prejudice had influenced its deliberations, including a purported contentious comment by a juror that St. Lawrence “was protecting the Jews” in reference to the town’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish bloc vote.
St. Lawrence’s sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 27.
His monthlong trial that ended May 19 centered on the financing of the town’s $58 million baseball stadium and payments for construction of 132 condominium on Elm Street bordering Spring Valley.
The jury believed the prosecution’s evidence St. Lawrence manipulated the town’s financial books by fabricating revenues to get better rates on municipal bonds and short-term borrowing notes to finance the stadium and other projects. Sales of the condos were supposedly paying off the stadium construction costs, including a $25 million bond.
St. Lawrence’s attorney, Michael Burke of Suffern, argued Wednesday that Seibel should at least hold a hearing with the juror who reported the comment about “protecting the Jews” or with other jurors
“How could this not be considered prejudicial,” Burke told the judge.
One juror reported the comment during deliberations by another juror to a television news reporter, but also was interviewed saying that while some jurors prejudged St. Lawrence, the panel properly reviewed evidence presented at the trial. The comment wasn’t broadcast.
Seibel said the words amounted to triple hearsay and lacked context. She also noted she’s restricted by judicial decisions from interviewing jurors on verdicts unless the circumstances involved an extraordinarily prejudicial issue.
Seibel said that while she agreed with Burke that the comment was concerning, the situation didn’t meet the threshold and was a “yawner.”
“That’s a big leap,” she said. “We don’t know the context.”
Prosecutor James McMahon told the judge that the jury being influence by the comment amounted to “nothing more than rank speculation — crossing a huge canyon” to reach Burke’s conclusion. McMahon opposed vacating the verdicts and a new trial.
Seibel concluded the jury’s verdicts finding St. Lawrence guilty of 20 counts — securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy — were based on sufficient evidence. The jury dismissed two of the counts following the trial that ended May 19 at the U.S. District Courthouse in White Plains.”
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