Niagara Gazette

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March 19, 2014

State Supreme Court justice dismisses pair of Steve Richards' official misconduct charges

Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — Once there were 28, now there are 23.

A State Supreme Court justice has tossed two more charges from the public corruption indictment against Town of Niagara Supervisor Steven Richards.

In a decision released late Friday, Justice Christopher Burns dismissed two charges of official misconduct lodged against Richards. The charges alleged that, from March of 2002 until March of 2012, Richards had possession of a shotgun that belonged to the town police department and that, from Oct. 2011 to March 2012, he had a police department-owned generator at his home or auto repair business. 

Burns wrote that those counts, in an original 28-count grand jury indictment, “fail to establish the elements necessary for a charge of Official Misconduct” under the state penal law. 

The justice also limited a charge of defrauding the government to only activity by Richards that took place on or after Feb. 12, 2010. 

At a hearing before Burns on Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Diane LaValle objected to the ruling and asked the justice to reconsider his dismissal of the charges.

“(Richards) admitted (in statements to an FBI agent) that he shouldn’t have had the generator and shotgun,” LaValle protested. “He received the generator in his capacity as (town) supervisor. He borrowed it from the police and didn’t return it.”

Burns did not indicate whether or not he would reconsider the ruling. 

The justice rejected requests from Richards’ defense team to dismiss 11 other counts in the indictment, writing that those charges “are legally sufficient at this stage of the proceedings.”

Prior to Burns’ decision, state prosecutors had voluntarily withdrawn three other charges from the original indictment against Richards. LaValle told Burns the counts were “past the statute of limitations.” 

Prosecutors had also received permission to “amend” the indictment “to specify (that Richards’ crimes) took place in the Town of Niagara and County of Niagara.”

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