Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque’s defense to the federal indictment charging him with theft, money laundering and tax offenses hinges on a simple theory: He was entitled to the money.
In a motion filed this week, LaRoque’s attorneys claim he was legally entitled to the federal funds he received as the middle man in a rural re-lending program, and so he could not have stolen the money.
The former Republican representative from Kinston is scheduled to go on trial May 20 in U.S. District Court in Greenville.
His attorneys want Judge Malcolm Howard to throw out what they contend is superfluous wording in the 77-page indictment, saying the first 70 pages of introduction are irrelevant. A third version of the 10-count indictment was filed April 17.
Federal prosecutors say in a filing that the lengthy, detailed indictment “carefully and methodically unravels (LaRoque’s) scheme.” But defense attorneys Joseph B. Cheshire V and Elliot S. Abrams of Raleigh contend that the government’s theory of the case doesn’t constitute a crime.
Even if it was a crime, they argue, the jury shouldn’t have to hear about the past 27 years of LaRoque’s life, and 16 years that he was in the re-lending business, and his various political activities that are outlined in the federal charges. The defense lawyers say even if a jury could be convinced that LaRoque compensated himself excessively, that would be a civil matter.
The defense has moved to dismiss the charges based on what it contends is the government’s failure to state an offense.
LaRoque, who was co-chairman of the House Rules Committee, resigned from the General Assembly last year after he was indicted on charges that he illegally used money from a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan program for his own benefit, paying himself nearly $2 million and buying lavish gifts for his girlfriend.
The defense also takes a swipe at the government’s investigation, saying it began after N.C. Policy Watch – underlining that it is a “Democratic-leaning” online outlet – published stories about the “outspoken Republican.” The defense complains that investigators “delved into every aspect of LaRoque’s life” for 10 months before obtaining an indictment.