Mistrial declared in Troy ballot fraud trial
TROY, N.Y. -- Judge George Pulver declared a mistrial Tuesday afternoon after the jury deadlocked on whether to acquit or convict Board of Elections Commissioner Ed McDonough and former Councilman Michael LoPorto in a ballot fraud trial.
"I was hoping for an acquittal," said LoPorto after the judge dismissed the jury shortly before 2 p.m., after deliberating for some 40 hours since March 2.
For the last two days, the jury voiced concerns about being able to reach a verdict. Monday, Pulver said it could reach a verdict on some charges and deadlock on others if that were indeed the case.
After mentioning he felt the jury put in a lot of hours and consideration, Pulver said he became concerned once the jury came back with a note stating that four jurors would like to speak with him privately and separate from the group.
"The court fears any further intrusion would be contrary to the spirit of the process," Pulver said.
Supporters for the two were jubilant after Pulver's decision, McDonough and LoPorto hugging supporters and friends in the courthouse common area.
"This is just one round," McDonough said. "We'll see what happens next."
Brian Premo, attorney for McDonough, said he was disappointed not getting a not-guilty verdict, but felt it was the right decision to declare a mistrial and said he hopes for a retrial, as he felt Special Prosecutor Trey Smith's case was never a good one.
"I thought it was in shambles from the beginning," Premo said. "I think his case is full of holes."
If the case were to be retried, Premo said the defense will be better prepared, as it has already looked over the 40,000 documents he said were dropped in his lap the day before the trial began by Smith. He also said the defense will be able to introduce its own witnesses. He said he didn't do so in this trial as a tactical decision since it had gone on for seven weeks
Pulver said the case will be retried and Smith expressed his intention to do so. "We will absolutely try the case again," Smith said, while acknowledging there will be a lot of political pressure not to do so. He did say, however, that the Rensselaer County Legislature tried to persuade him not to do try the first time, but that didn't stop him.
McDonough was charged with 38 counts of forgery and 36 counts of possession of a forged instrument for his actions during the 2009 Working Families Party primary. LoPorto was charged with 29 counts of possession of a forged instrument. Charges of forgery against LoPorto were thrown out before the trial began.
The jurors heard a host of voters say they didn't sign and or fill out absentee ballots and/or absentee ballot applications, as well as a number of officials and operatives take the stand and admit they were involved in the conspiracy.
Former City Clerk Bill McInerney, former Councilman John Brown and operatives Tony DiFiglio and Tony Renna all pleaded guilty to a felony each and testified on behalf of Smith.
Charges, including felonies, against two other Democrats, former Council President Clement Campana and Councilman Gary Galuski, remain outstanding.
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