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All charges against Ortt dismissed

Fri, Jun 30th 2017 07:00 am
Albany County Court judge finds insufficient evidence
By Terry Duffy
Editor-in-Chief
In a decision reached Tuesday in Albany County Court, State Sen. Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, was exonerated of all indictments due to a lack of evidence.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed indictments in late March.
"The Court has inspected the Grand Jury minutes and finds the evidence before the Grand Jury was legally insufficient to establish the offenses changed," Albany County Court Judge Peter Lynch wrote. "It is this court('s) view, that there was no valid line of reasoning and permissible inferences which could lead a rational Grand Juror to issue an indictment in this case."
Lynch was referring to earlier campaign financial disclosure accusations by Schneiderman, alleging Ortt, while serving as mayor of the City of North Tonawanda, participated in an illegal scheme to pad his taxpayer-funded salary, which had declined in income. Schneiderman alleged Ortt and others had devised a pass-through scheme to pay Ortt's wife, Meghan, for a job for which she performed no actual work.
Ortt's wife received approximately $21,500 from 2010-14 as part of the pass-through, Schneiderman claimed. It was also alleged by Schneiderman that payments to Ortt's wife were falsely reported as payments to one of the same pass-through entities that was used to pay for a former Senate staff member to former New York State Sen. George Maziarz.
According to court documents provided by Schneiderman, violations to election law to intentionally report an expenditure were made to a third party, the Niagara County Republican Committee, by Meghan Ortt's employer, Synor Marketing/Regency Communications, in order to conceal the payments to Ortt's wife.
However, in the court review, Lynch ruled otherwise, determining, "The fundamental flaw in the presentation before the Grand Jury, however, is there was no evidence whatsoever that Defendant Ortt know the source of the monies paid by Synor/Regency to Meghan Ortt was (the) NCRC. ... Absent proof that (the) Defendant knew the money source was NCRC, there is no proof that the defendant had the mental culpability for the commission of the charged crimes."
"Moreover, absent knowledge of the money source, there is no evidence to establish the elements of the charged crimes, i.e., (1) knowledge that the campaign finance reports were false, (2) intent to defraud the State or any of its subdivisions, and (3) presentation of the campaign finance reports for filing," Lynch said.
"In this Court view, that there is no valid line of reasoning and permissible influences which could lead a rational Grand Juror to issue an indictment in this case ... the Court could not reach the issue of whether the corroboration element was satisfied.
"It is the Decision and Order of the Court ... Counts 6, 7 and 8 are herby dismissed."
Responding to the judge's ruling, Ortt and county and state GOP officials offered their praise as "welcome news."
All went on criticize the efforts of Schneiderman as being politically motivated.
"Today's decision by Judge Lynch to dismiss these ridiculous political charges was welcome news," Ortt said. "This quick and forthright dismissal exposed Eric Schneiderman for the power-hungry, political opportunist that he is. It is my hope that this ruling today will force Mr. Schneiderman to think twice before concocting baseless charges to serve his own radical progressive political agenda again. My wife and I look forward to receiving a personal apology from Mr. Schneiderman."
"I've known Rob as a friend, colleague and public servant, and he has always conducted himself with nothing less than complete integrity and honor," Niagara County Republican Party Chairman Scott Kiedrowski wrote in a statement. "Today's dismissal is complete vindication for Rob and his wife. He hasn't stopped working for Niagara County and I know that will continue to be his focus."
 "Once again, Eric Schneiderman has embarrassed the Office of the New York Attorney General by bringing ridiculous, politically motivated charges that don't hold up in court," commented New York State Republican Chairman Chris Cox. "He has established a clear reputation for his political witch hunts at the expense of New York taxpayers.
"Judge Lynch's decision to drop all charges against Sen. Ortt is welcome news, but the actions of AG Schneiderman have left another indelible stain on the conduct of the state's highest law enforcement officer that won't be forgotten."

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