“A federal judge ruled today that prosecutors can pin their fraud case against Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence on the Rockland Boulders baseball stadium.
St. Lawrence was in court in White Plains today for a pre-trial conference during which U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel ruled on a number of motions. Among them, she said prosecutors will be allowed to argue at St. Lawrence’s trial in April that he lied about public funds being used to build Provident Bank Park in Pomona, which prosecutors said was his motivation for doctoring town financial records to cover up the deception.
St. Lawrence’s attorney, Michael Burke, argued against. He said some public money was used for parts of the project.
Seibel said she would allow the prosecutors’ argument.
“I think it’s relevant because it makes sense as a motive,” she said.
Seibel also said Thursday she would allow prosecutors to tell the jury about St. Lawrence instructing a contractor to lie to Ramapo about the town’s need to reimburse the RLDC for $1 million in maintenance expenses, which actually ended up being used for stadium construction costs.
Burke did not deny that took place, but said it was not relevant to the charges.
“It shows the defendant’s plan,” prosecutor James McMahon said. “Why else would he do this?”
Lawyers and the judge did not finish their conference today; they are scheduled to return to court Monday morning.
“The Ramapo and RLDC bonds were built on a foundation of fraud,” then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at the time St. Lawrence was arrested along with former local official Aaron Troodler. “They did an end run around the voters and ensured no public funds would be used. They lied. There were other, more pressing needs than a shiny, new sports stadium.”
St. Lawrence’s defense may have gotten more complicated earlier this month when Troodler, pleaded guilty to securities fraud charges and agreed to testify for prosecutors in St. Lawrence’s case. Troodler, a former deputy town attorney, also served as the LDC’s executive director while St. Lawrence chaired the three-member board. He now lives in Pennsylvania.
The trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday April 19.
Prosecutors have estimated the trial could take four to five weeks.
Read the complete Journal News story here.