GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Former North Carolina Rep. Stephen LaRoque is getting a new trial on two of the dozen federal criminal counts on which he was convicted in June.
Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard signed an order Thursday partially granting a defense motion for a new trial after it was learned one juror had visited an Internal Revenue Service web site during the trial to research tax laws at issue in the case.
LaRoque was accused of filing false tax returns on income and loans from a federally funded rural development program he founded. Jurors aren't allowed to perform independent research outside the courtroom.
The remaining 10 convictions will stand. LaRoque faces years in prison for convictions involving theft from a non-profit receiving federal funds, money laundering and making false statements.
LaRoque is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 10.
Prosecutors said LaRoque took $300,000 from his East Carolina Development Co., which served as an intermediary for issuing loans through a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan program, and putting the money in another one of his businesses, LaRoque Management Group.
The management group then wrote checks in 2009 and 2010 to help pay for an ice skating rink in Greenville for his wife and a stepdaughter and to purchase a house for a second stepdaughter to rent, according to an indictment. The activities violated U.S. Agriculture Department policies and the bylaws of East Carolina Development, the indictment said.
LaRoque and his attorney maintained he used money that belonged to him and blamed accounting and bookkeeping errors for issues leading to the federal investigation and subsequent charges.