An Albany County Court judge Monday turned down a motion to dismiss a corruption case against State Sen. Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, on a claim that he was improperly denied a chance to speak before an Albany County grand jury on March 23.
In his decision, Judge Peter A. Lynch noted that Ortt had declined to give a statement in advance of questioning in front of the jury and that it was proper to turn down his request to address the jury after he was questioned.
Lynch wrote that the law concerning grand jury testimony “does not grant the right to a second opportunity to give further testimony, following the completion of the people’s examination. From a strategic view, a defendant may seek an advantage to give a statement following examination, for he would first have the benefit of knowing all of the questions before he gives a statement. A defendant’s strategic decisions do not, however, govern grand jury proceedings.”
Reached by phone Monday following the ruling, Stephen R. Coffey, Ortt’s Albany defense attorney, said he had no comment on the decision but indicated that he thought Ortt would be exonerated.
Ortt had sought to give additional testimony after he was questioned about payments from the Niagara County Republican Committee to his wife, Meghan.
The jury, which is probing election law violations in Niagara County, indicted Ortt in a case that also involves former State Sen. George D. Maziarz.
In filing the motion to dismiss the case, Coffey said that while Ortt is charged with filing a false campaign finance report, he was denied the chance to explain that he was not responsible for any filings by the county GOP committee.
“Sen. Ortt ... was never shown any forms, documents or filings he was eventually accused of offering," Coffey said at the time.
Maziarz has been charged by State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman with allegedly diverting money from his campaign fund to a former Senate staffer he wanted to retain as a campaign aide after the staffer resigned amid charges of sexual harassment.
The attorney general claims that the money was listed as payments to “pass-through entities” instead of the staff member, which is a violation of state law.
Story topics: State corruption investigation