Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — The last chapter of Steve Richards' 18-plus year run as the Town of Niagara supervisor was written Monday morning.
At a hearing at the Niagara County Courthouse that lasted about 15 minutes, Richards pleaded guilty to a single count of official misconduct. The plea follows his resignation as town supervisor on Friday and concludes a joint state and federal investigation of public corruption in the town.
Richards also paid $1,240.37 in restitution to the town as part of a plea deal with the New York State Attorney General's Office.
The Gazette first reported on Wednesday that Richards had agreed to plead guilty to a single count of a now 23-count public corruption indictment that he was facing. Jury selection for his trial on those charges had been set for Monday.
Appearing before State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Burns, Richards, reading from a prepared statement, admitted that in May 2010 he sent town employees to a Cheektowaga business with a town truck and front-loafer and had them bring a concrete catch basin back to his auto shop in the town. The employees were supposed to be doing town work at the time.
"I plead guilty, your honor," Richards told Burns.
Burns had questioned Assistant Attorney General Diane LaVallee about the reason for the plea on the day that jury selection for a trial would have stated. LaVallee told him Richards was pleading to the second highest count in the indictment and, as a result of the plea, was being forced to leave office.
"It spares us having to call 30 witnesses (at trial), many of whom have expressed some reluctance to testify," LaVallee said. "It's our hope that the plea today will help heal the town."
"Your main focus is to bring (Richards') behavior to light and to get restitution and it's not your feeling that (a jail term) is necessary," Burns asked LaVallee.