Under the Dome

Juror misconduct leads to reduced convictions against LaRoque

A federal judge on Thursday set aside two of the 12 counts on which former state legislator Stephen LaRoque was convicted in June because of juror misconduct during the trial in Greenville.

The night before the verdict, one of the jurors had looked up on a home computer Internal Revenue Service instructions for filling out paperwork for taxes, which included information on S corporations, and mentioned it to other jurors the next day while deliberations were still under way.

Another juror mentioned it to the lead federal prosecutor in the case after the verdict came in, and the prosecutor, Dennis Duffy, reported it to U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm J. Howard. The judge called a closed conference on June 18, in which that juror and two others were questioned.

The juror said he didn’t think he was violating the judge’s order not to do independent research because he thought his inquiries were into a topic that is generally known, and not about a specific person.

LaRoque’s attorneys argued for a new trial on all counts, but Howard ruled that only two of the counts were relevant because they referred to filing false tax returns.

LaRoque is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 10. LaRoque was a high-ranking Republican member of the state House from Kinston, who got into trouble with authorities for mishandling funds in a federal loan re-lending enterprise.

The juror was apparently not punished.

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