Judge dismisses felony charges against Ortt
ALBANY – A judge in Albany has dismissed three felony corruption charges against State Sen. Robert Ortt today.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman brought the charges against Ortt, claiming Ortt’s wife Meghan was paid for a no-show job arranged by the Niagara County Republican Party.
Albany County Judge Peter Lynch dismissed the case, citing a lack of evidence.
“Today’s decision by Judge Lynch to dismiss these ridiculous political charges was welcome news.,” Ortt said in a statement. “This quick and forthright dismissal exposed Eric Schneiderman for the power hungry, political opportunist that he is. It is my hope that this ruling today will force Mr. Schneiderman to think twice before concocting baseless charges to serve his own radical progressive political agenda again. My wife and I look forward to receiving a personal apology from Mr. Schneiderman.”
The attorney general on March 23 charged Ortt with three felony counts of Filing a False Instrument in the First Degree, which carries a maximum sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years on each count.
The court filings and the indictment allege that while serving as mayor of North Tonawanda, Ortt participated in an illegal scheme to pad his taxpayer-funded salary after he was elected mayor which came with a pay cut from when he served as clerk/treasurer, the attorney general said.
The attorney general alleged Ortt and others devised a pass-through scheme to pay Ortt’s wife for a job for which she performed no actual work. Ortt’s wife received approximately $21,500 from 2010 to 2014 as part of the scheme, Schneiderman said on March 23.
Judge Peter Lynch, an Albany County Court judge, issued a 10-page decision today in dismissing the charges.
The judge wrote that Ortt didn’t prepare and file his campaign finance reports (His campaign treasurer did), and also didn’t know the source of the $21,500 paid to his wife over about four years.
(Meghan Ortt is a graphics designer who was hired by Synor Agency/Regency Communications at the prompting of Henry Wojtasek, the former Niagara County Republican Party chairman.)
Mrs. Ortt was on retainer from Synor and both she and her husband believed it was for her work as a graphic designer, the judge said in his written decision.
“The Court has inspected the Grant Jury minutes and finds the evidence before the Grand Jury was legally insufficient to establish the offenses charged,” Lynch said. “It is this court view, that there was no valid line of reasoning and permissible inferences which could lead a rational Grant Juror to issue an Indictment in this case.”
Judge Lynch said there is no proof Ortt knew the campaign finance reports were false, or that he intended to defraud the state “or any of its subdivisions.”