Greenville, N.C. — As he awaits a retrial on charges that he misused federal funds, former Rep. Stephen LaRoque is trying to get the case dismissed, alleging that prosecutors improperly extended the term of the grand jury that indicted him.
The Kinston Republican was convicted in 2013 of four counts each of misuse of funds, money laundering and fraud, but two of the 12 guilty verdicts were later set aside after it was learned that a juror conducted outside research in the case.
Last February, Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard ruled that all of the guilty verdicts should be thrown out and the case retried. The new trial is scheduled for February.
Federal prosecutors say LaRoque directed $300,000 from a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan program for small-business development that he administered to friends and family and might have used some for campaign expenses. They allege that he also lied on USDA documents and filed false tax returns.
Defense attorneys have requested information about the grand jury, such as its start and end dates and any documentation from federal prosecutors that would have extended the panel's 18-month term. The argue that a superseding indictment handed up in April 2013 came more than 18 months after the grand jury started issuing subpoenas in the case in August 2011.
"If the government used the same grand jury and did not get an extension, the Second Superseding Indictment is void," the defense claims in court documents filed Monday.
LaRoque has maintained that loans from the USDA fund to two nonprofits he directed were more like advances on money owed to him by the nonprofits because he often didn't take all of his required salaries. The defense also has claimed that the boards of the two nonprofits approved LaRoque's actions, so it was his money to spend as he saw fit.
LaRoque resigned his House seat in 2012 under pressure after his indictment.