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Trial begins for lawmaker facing felony charges

A former North Carolina lawmaker is about to go to trial for several felony charges that have been brought against him. He is accused of taking government money from non-profit organizations to use for personal purchases. The felony charges also include allegedly tricking taxpayers into giving him an inflated salary and a large interest-free loan.

Specifically, Stephen LaRoque is charged with theft from federally funded North Carolina programs, criminally derived property transactions and various charges involving fraud and cover-up schemes. This former public servant had been elected to three terms, but resigned after his indictment. He was also defeated in the primary that he had participated in for his political party.

LaRoque has only been making statements through his attorney, who claims that the lawmaker is innocent of wrongdoing and legally given all of the money at issue. He argues that his client had the legal authority to take the money, and therefore, there are no grounds for theft. The prosecution revolves around apparently suspicious payments made from two non-profit development companies that are supposed to make loans to small businesses. LaRoque's attorney claims that everything from these transactions was legal and approved.

There is also suspicion that LaRoque used illegally obtained money for personal homes and to fund his campaign. While the suspect is very familiar to the public, he still has the right to a fair trial and will be considered innocent until proven guilty of felony charges. Even if he is convicted in a court of public opinion, he must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in an actual court of law before he can face any legal consequences. The defense has the right to present evidence and bring witnesses on his behalf.

Source: PilotOnline.com, "Criminal trial set to begin for Ex-N.C. Rep. LaRoque," Michael Biesecker, May 20, 2013

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