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Former NC Rep. LaRoque to get retrial

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - Former N.C. Rep. Stephen LaRoque will get a re-trial on a dozen felony convictions due to juror misconduct, a judge ruled Tuesday.

With wife on his arm and cameras following closely, LaRoque spoke to reporters for the first time since his criminal trial kicked off last summer.

"I’m looking forward to the new trial and proving my innocence," he said.

A jury convicted LaRoque on 12 felony convictions for stealing, then spending federal money and covering it up. U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm J. Howard made the retrial ruling in light of juror misconduct after Juror No. 3, Jerry Miller, admitted to doing online research during deliberations, which is not allowed.

LaRoque’s lawyers argued it tainted the verdict and stripped their client of his right to an impartial jury.

"Where the real danger is, is allowing jurors to convict American citizens on evidence that's not presented in the courtroom,” said Joe Cheshire, LaRoque's defense attorney.

Judge Howard agreed, throwing out two convictions months ago, then voiding the remaining ones in the retrial hearing.

Lead prosecutor Dennis Duffy declined to comment outside the courtroom. But inside, he argued the progression of the case put them in “dangerous territory.” Duffy said after getting slapped with guilty verdicts, LaRoque and his lawyers tried to get as much information as possible about the content of jury deliberations, which should be kept more or less private.

Duffy said granting LaRoque a retrial would set a “terrible precedent” for losing defendants to “harass” and “exploit disgruntled jurors” after a trial wrapped, thus injuring the jury deliberation system. He argued Juror No. 3 was “mad he was told he was guilty of misconduct” and could not be trusted as a credible source because his story kept changing.

But Judge Howard said federal prosecutors could not prove Miller’s outside research had no significant impact on other jurors or other counts. He plans to detail his decision in-depth by filing a court order within 48 hours.

Meanwhile, LaRoque is relieved and ready for another battle in the courtroom.

"We’re going to hopefully be able to show the jury that I’m not guilty and that I didn't steal anything,” he told 9 On Your Side’s Katie Banks. “I didn't defraud anybody and I look forward to my day in court."

But another day in court means more of your taxpayer money must pay for it.

“Do you feel like this was a waste of taxpayer money, this three-week trial for the government to go after him and now we're starting again from scratch?" 9 On Your Side asked Cheshire.

“Well, there's an old saying there's an awful lot about an awful little,” he responded. “I will let the public make their decision about that."

Federal prosecutors have 30 days to file an appeal. If that happens, the case goes to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va.

LaRoque will be in court again on Tuesday, Feb. 25, to get approval for switching attorneys from Cheshire to Greenville defense lawyer Keith Williams, and approval for the means to pay for it.

--- Original Article ---

A former North Carolina lawmaker, convicted on several counts of fraud and money laundering, will get a new trial.

A judge overseeing a hearing on the matter granted former state representative Stephen LaRoque's request for a new trial just after noon on Tuesday.

LaRoque made his way into the Greenville courtroom this morning with two items on his agenda; asking the judge to approve of him switching attorneys and for a retrial.
  
Last June, a jury convicted LaRoque on a dozen felony counts after a three-week trial. But the judge later tossed out two of those counts when a juror admitted to doing online research of the case during the trial.

"I'm looking forward to the new trial and proving my innocence," Stephen LaRoque told reporters after leaving court this afternoon.
    
We'll bring you the latest from the courtroom coming up today at 5 and 6.

To read an in-depth history of LaRoque's trial, click on the links below:

 http://www.wnct.com/story/23033806/laroques-retrial-hearing-postponed-until-feb

http://www.wnct.com/story/21014631/laroques-trial-delayed-until-february

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