LiGreci pleads to lesser charges
Story by Eli Ruiz
SULLIVAN COUNTY May 10, 2013 Former Village of Monticello Manager John LiGreci accepted a plea deal on Wednesday before jury selection was even completed; a plea deal that will likely set the stage for LiGreci to eventually offer testimony against co-defendants TC Hutchins and Monticello resident Kariem McCline.
The charges were that he, along with Hutchins a village trustee and deputy mayor at the time of the alleged incident and McCline conspired to secure McCline a position with the village police force.
As part of the deal LiGreci will cop to three misdemeanor charges related to official misconduct and agrees to cooperate with prosecutors in the case.
Soon after LiGreci’s plea, Hutchins, through his attorney, entered a motion for a mistrial in the case, but Judge Frank LaBuda quickly struck the motion down.
Last November the Sullivan County District Attorney’s office handed down a 13-count indictment against the trio.
Hutchins and LiGreci a former Town of Lumberland supervisor and chairman of the Sullivan County Republican Committee were charged with two counts of first-degree coercion, a felony that carries up to seven years in prison upon conviction.
LiGreci was also charged with the second felony of falsifying business records in the first degree. The two were additionally charged with multiple counts of official misconduct, a misdemeanor. It was alleged that McCline was Hutchins’ friend and once worked under him at the Goshen Secure Center. McCline passed a Civil Service exam in 2011, but village law enforcement officials opposed his application because he had narcotics and burglary convictions as a youthful offender.
The November indictment went on to state that in September 2011 LiGreci ordered former Monticello Police Chief Doug Solomon to halt a background check on McCline before it had been completed. McCline was subsequently offered conditional employment six days later on October 4, 2011, against Solomon’s official recommendation.
Sullivan County’s Personnel Officer, Carolyn Hill, later terminated the hiring process.
McCline was preparing to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Village of Monticello Police Department and the county, just as Sullivan County District Attorney Jim Farrell began the criminal probe.
Furthermore, Hutchins and LiGreci are accused of ordering Lt. Mark Johnstone acting police chief following Solomon’s departure to answer several questions regarding his own actions during McCline’s background investigation. It’s also alleged that Johnstone was pressured by the pair to reveal confidential details regarding Farrell’s investigation to that point.
LiGreci was further accused of allowing McCline access to documentation related to the background check, along with memorandums that were part of the district attorney’s office investigation even though newly-installed Chief Robert Mir had advised against it.
LiGreci, who was fired last October by the village board, was also accused of using village monies to pay about $2,700 to a psychiatrist involved in McCline’s third psychological evaluation without board authorization. McCline underwent three such evaluations, unheard of in such cases.
In addition LiGreci was also accused of trying to hide, as a police budget line item, the payments to the out of area psychiatrist at a rate of $400 per hour.
Three felony charges against LiGreci were dropped as part of Wednesday’s plea deal. He is expected to receive three years probation with no jail time.
With a jury picked and seated by 11 a.m., and just before opening statements were about to begin Wednesday, LaBuda adjourned the proceeding against the remaining defendants, Hutchins and McCline, until Thursday at 9 a.m.
By Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO May 10, 2013 Yesterday day two of the trial a motion for mistrial in the case against Monticello Trustee TC Hutchins was granted by Judge Frank LaBuda.
A special 1 p.m. hearing requested by the DA’s office regarding Hutchins’ attorney’s motion for a mistrial based on former Monticello Village Manager LiGreci’s plea deal (see front page story) and issues with the jury led to LaBuda’s 3:15 p.m. decision to grant the defense motion.
With the decision, LaBuda agreed with the defense’s position that Hutchins, because of LiGreci’s move to the prosecutions side, would not be able to receive a fair trial.
See Tuesday’s Democrat for complete story.