As State Rep. Pete Beck awaits his four-week trial in November on securities fraud, theft, public corruption and other charges, he will be back in court in July.
The court case has been delayed several times because of discovery, the period of time where prosecution and defense attorneys assemble evidence in advance of a trial. Beck was ready to stand trial in April before the second of his two indictments came in February.
“This case has been under indictment for some time and we’re still getting discovery,” said Ralph Kohnen, attorney for Beck. “One of the things we requested of the court the last time we were here was a discovery cut-off date so that the state can get whatever they have to get to us so we can begin to prepare (for trial). Obviously we don’t even know what motions we might file until we have an opportunity to review the discovery, let alone plan a defense strategy.”
Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge John Andrew West asked the prosecution and defense attorneys if he should “get involved” and set a date, but they agreed to work out a date that leaves an appropriate time before trial. West said if the trial would have to be rescheduled, it would have to be in 2015.
The 61-year-old Beck lost his bid re-election to the 54th Ohio House District when he finished behind his two challengers in the May 6 primary. He was indicted twice within seven months — on 16 charges in July 2013 and public corruption and 53 additional charges in February — by a Hamilton County grand jury for his involvement with Christopher Technologies, a now-defect tech company. Beck served as the company’s chief financial officer.
In the February indictment, Janet Combs, Ark by the River, Christopher Technologies and TML Consulting were also indicted on several felony charges. Owner of TML Consulting, Tom Lysaght, who was married to Combs, died in November 2010.
The new hearing set for July 28 will allow the defense and prosecution to update West on a discovery end date and any other issues that will need to be addressed in advance of the trial. West requested the attorneys send him a scheduling order “and hopefully we can get it all done before our next court date and I can sign off on that and we can start preparing for trial.”
Daniel Kasaris, senior assistant Ohio Attorney General, said he sent a hard drive of discovery material by mail to Kohnen on Wednesday. It has been stated in court that there is more than 100,000 pages of discovery material.
John Fussner, Beck’s former co-defendant in the initial indictment, agreed to plead guilty and testify against Beck in exchange for a possible probation penalty. Fussner, the former chief executive officer of Christopher Technologies, was indicted in July 2013 on seven felony charges and not involved in the February indictment.
Beck, who has refused to step down as a state representative, has always maintained he is innocent of all charges from the moment a $1.2 million civil suit was filed in January 2013 by investors who say he defrauded them out of their cash in an investment scheme. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, along with Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, filed the felony charges against Beck and allege the whole fraud scheme, where others played larger roles, is worth $2.1 million.
Patrick Hanley, attorney for Combs, said he was concerned about being prepared for the November trial, which was initially set as “tentative.” West said that date is now “firm” barring any “unusual circumstances” that could arise.
“Mr. Beck has been indicted six months or so before my client, so I haven’t had the opportunity, nearly the amount of time to consider the evidence,” he said.
West assured Hanley he would be ready.
“You’re cautioning me that you may not be ready,” West said with a smile to Hanley, “but I’m cautioning you, you will be ready.”