Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — LOCKPORT — Town of Niagara Supervisor Steven Richards let his lawyer do the talking at his arraignment Friday, in State Supreme Court in Lockport, on a 28-count public corruption indictment.
The 18-year town supervisor entered a plea of not guilty to the charges and his defense attorney, Rodney Personius, immediately began to attack the case brought by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
"We did try to work with the attorney general's office to keep this from going forward," Personius said. "Reasonable men differed (on what the evidence in the case shows) and we're happy to let this land in a public courtroom. We now have an opportunity to fully vet this in a proper setting."
Before entering his client's not guilty plea, Personius told Supreme Court Justice Richard Kloch Sr. there appeared to be multiple defects in the indictment. The former federal prosecutor and veteran defense attorney said the indictment failed to indict where in New York state Richards' crimes occurred and said some of his alleged crimes were not crimes at the time they may have happened.
Personius also said the statute of limitations may have run out on some of the alleged crimes.
Kloch, himself, noted that a felony theft charge in the indictment seemed to claim that the crime occurred from March of 2002 through March of 2012.
"Either that's the longest theft in all mankind or there's more to be looked at here," the judge said.
Kloch suggested that Personius and state prosecutors would be able to make arguments to him over those issues. Kloch set a December hearing date for those arguments.
Assistant Attorney General Paul McCarthy told Kloch, "This case is ready for trial. The investigation is complete."
The indictment accuses Richards of engaging in an ongoing scheme to steal town property and use town employees and equipment for his own personal gain. The case was investigated by the Joint Task Force on Public Integrity, which is a cooperative effort between the state attorney general, the state comptroller and the FBI.