10 of 13 criminal counts overturned against jailed ex-state lawmaker

The First District Court of Appeals overturned 10 of 13 criminal counts against former state lawmaker Pete Beck. Pictured is Beck at the defense table with defense attorney Chad Ziepfel on May 26, 2015, during Beck’s criminal trial in a Hamilton County Common Pleas courtroom in Cincinnati.
The First District Court of Appeals overturned 10 of 13 criminal counts against former state lawmaker Pete Beck. Pictured is Beck at the defense table with defense attorney Chad Ziepfel on May 26, 2015, during Beck’s criminal trial in a Hamilton County Common Pleas courtroom in Cincinnati.

UPDATE @ 12:25 p.m., Thursday:

Because Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Tom Heekin is out of the courthouse until Monday, an equity judge may hear the emergency motion to have former Ohio lawmaker Pete Beck released early from prison.

The appeals court in Cincinnati overturned 10 of 13 criminal counts Beck was convicted of last summer. That prompted Pierre Bergeron to file the motion late Wednesday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

Court officials said that motion could be heard by an equity judge, which is a judge that could be brought in to hear the motion since the presiding judge is unavailable.

UPDATE @ 10:09 p.m., Wednesday:

In a late filing Wednesday, Pierre Bergeron, the attorney for former Ohio lawmaker Pete Beck, filed an emergency motion in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court to have his client released on his own recognizance.

The motion is requesting a hearing on Thursday.

The First District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati overturned 10 of 13 criminal counts against Beck, saying the trial court should not have found the former Mason mayor guilty on three securities-related counts and seven perjury counts and remanded the case back to the trial court.

The appeals court did not overturn the three theft convictions, but Bergeron said the sentence for those charges were one year. Beck has been in prison since August 2015.

"Given that Mr. Beck has already served far more time than will be necessary, there is no reason to delay his release pending vacatur," according to the motion.

INITIAL STORY

A convicted former state lawmaker could get out of prison early.

The First District Court of Appeals overturned Wednesday 10 of 13 criminal counts against former state lawmaker and Mason mayor Pete Beck, saying the judge who presided over the 10-week criminal trial made mistakes.

Beck attorney Pierre Bergeron said he’s now working to get his client out of prison “as soon as possible,” but Ohio Attorney General’s Office spokesman Dan Tierney said attorneys are examining the ruling and “we’re entering the process to determine if we’ll be appealing that ruling” to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Wednesday's decision by the Cincinnati appeals court's three-judge panel came some 3½ months after Bergeron argued his client's June 2, 2015, conviction should be overturned. Beck was sentenced on Aug. 20, 2015.

“We’re very pleased with the result and feel that this vindicates a lot of the arguments that had been raised, that claims that should have never been brought about against him,” Bergeron said.

Beck was indicted on 16 charges on July 19, 2013, for his connection to a failed tech start-up called Christopher Technologies. Prosecutors say he was the chief executive officer of the firm and a key reason why people invested and collectively lost millions of dollars on the company, but Beck’s defense team claimed he was merely a financial consultant and never forced or lied to convince people to invest.

The former Marine and Warren County politician was found guilty on 13 of 38 counts in June 2015, and was sentenced to four years in prison in August 2015. He was immediately taken into custody after his hearing and has been incarcerated ever since. Beck is currently in the Southeastern Correctional Institution.

Beck was charged under three securities law statutes for a meeting with Tom Walter, the investor that brought forward the initial complaint by the Ohio Division of Securities. The court said there was no evidence Beck knew Walter was a potential investor.

Beck was accused of not being licensed to sell securities as Christopher Technologies attracted investors. The state argued that Beck first met Walter on July 22, 2008, but through the course of the trial evidence showed that meeting was on July 10, 2008.

That was the only time Beck met with Walter before he wired a $150,000 investment to Christopher Technologies on July 16, 2008 — all outside the five-year statute of limitations. Eventually Walter, and his wife Tina, invested $360,000 into Christopher Technologies and a company known as TML Consulting.

Walter headed up a civil lawsuit against Beck, filed in January 2013. That case, in which several former Christopher Technologies investors were plaintiffs, was delayed until after the criminal trial. In July 2016, attorney J. Thomas Hodges said the case had been "resolved and dismissed" as of the end of May.

In respects to the perjury charges, the court ruled there the trial court erred as there was no evidence to “demonstrate that defendant’s answers to the questions were clearly false or where (the) defendant’s answer was to a vague and ambiguous question.”

Tierney said the Attorney General’s Office has 45 days from Wednesday to file a motion to appeal, pending any requests to extend the timeline. The appeals court has remanded the case back to the trial court.

Bergeron doesn’t believe the Attorney General’s Office will be successful in appealing to the Ohio Supreme Court, saying the “securities counts and the perjury counts were vacated as matter of law.”

But he said Beck could get out sooner than the four years he was sentenced.

“In the three theft counts, they were upheld but the sentence on those were a year and he has already served in excess of a year,” said Bergeron. “So we’re working on getting him released as soon as possible.”

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