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New court date set for state representative

As a co-defendant of State Rep. Pete Beck is working on a plea deal with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the Warren County Republican proceeded Friday morning in a Hamilton County courtroom to defend himself against 70 charges related to corruption, fraud, perjury, money laundering and theft.

The Ohio Attorney General’s and Hamilton County Prosecutor’s offices, who are jointly prosecuting the case, and the attorneys for Beck — represented by Taft Stettinius & Hollister — and co-defendants Janet Combs and Ark by the River Church — represented by Pat Hanley — will work to determine how to proceed at an April 7 hearing.

Options, according to Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge John Andrew West, for Beck can include consolidating the 70 charges in his two cases and severing cases to try the co-defendants separately.

“That will give you about a month now to determine how you which to proceed further,” the judge said Friday morning to Hanley and Beck attorney Chad Ziepfel, who represented Beck at the hearing.

West vacated the April 7 trial date, where Beck was to be tried on the initial 16 charges. Instead that date was reassigned to be a plea or trial setting hearing.

Beck, 61, was indicted twice within seven months by a Hamilton County grand jury related to his involvement with the now defunct technologies company Christopher Technologies. The former Mason mayor was indicted in July 2013 on 16 securities fraud and theft charges and in December 2013 an April 7 trial date was set. In this case, Beck was indicted with John Fussner, the former president of Christopher Technologies. Beck served as the technologies company’s chief financial officer.

On Feb. 13, a grand jury indicted Beck on 54 new charges related to political corruption, perjury, theft, telecommunications and securities fraud and money laundering. Janet Combs, Ark by the River, Christopher Technologies and TML Consulting were also named in the indictment. Owner of TML Consulting, Tom Lysaght, who was married to Combs, died in November 2010.

Friday was Beck’s first court appearance since the new indictments were handed down.

Beck has maintained his innocence and has refused to step down despite calls for that from fellow House leaders and the Ohio Republican Party. After the February indictment, Beck’s attorneys said “it appears that the new charges presented … are based on essentially the same evidence as the original indictment.”

Ziepfel declined to comment after the hearing.

Fussner was to be tried next month with Beck, but Daniel Kasaris, senior assistant Ohio Attorney General, said he is working on a plea agreement with the Attorney General’s office.

“He’s given us a statement we will provide his co-defendant (Beck) and it’s a matter of working out the day we bring him in here to resolve his matter,” Kasaris said to West.

Kasaris said Vernon “Chip” Demois, who has not been indicted but mentioned in the Feb. 13 indictment, has also reached a plea agreement with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

“It’s a matter of getting both people in front of you,” he said to the judge.

Kasaris said there are 110,000 documents his office will provide Hanley and Ziepfel, and is working on a bill of particulars requested by Beck through his attorneys.

Once Beck’s finished with the criminal proceedings, he will face a civil lawsuit which was filed in January 2013 before any criminal indictments were handed down. Investors of the former technology company filed the $1.2 million lawsuit against Beck in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

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