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Archive for Monday, December 15, 2003

Judge rules former officials don’t have to pay restitution

December 15, 2003

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— A civil lawsuit is apparently Reno County's last hope to recover nearly $800,000 from a former sheriff and a lawyer convicted of conflict of interest.

Judge Michael Barbara, who presided over the criminal cases of former Reno County Sheriff Larry Leslie and Hutchinson attorney Gerald Hertach, said the two won't have to pay restitution in their criminal cases.

"The case will be closed when the jail sentence is served," Barbara said. "If they serve their jail sentence, no restitution will be ordered."

Prosecutors accused Leslie of taking almost $285,000 in bribes from Hertach in exchange for persuading county commissioners to contract with Hertach's company to run the county jail annex.

The two were sentenced to jail for a year on two counts of misdemeanor conflict of interest for failing to disclose Leslie's relationship to the annex management contract, but Barbara agreed to parole if they presented a plan to repay the county.

They didn't provide restitution plans and will complete their year in jail next month.

Leslie is scheduled to be released from the Saline County Jail on Jan. 3 and Hertach from the Rice County Jail on Jan. 31.

With Barbara's decision not to order restitution in the criminal case, Reno County's only hope of recovering nearly $800,000 in jail annex profits is through a civil lawsuit, filed shortly after the criminal charges in 2001, against the two men and MgtGp Inc.

"If there would have been a restitution order made, we would have said, 'OK, that is good enough for us,'" said Hutchinson attorney Stan Hill, who represents the county in the civil case. "But now we will pursue the money through the civil suit."

The county's attempt to do that was delayed after both defendants filed last-minute bankruptcy claims days before the November civil lawsuit was scheduled to be heard.

County commissioners have brought in Hutchinson bankruptcy attorney Dan Forker to assist with the case. Forker anticipates filing a motion that essentially would ask for the civil case to proceed without becoming part of the bankruptcy filing.

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