TROY, N.Y. (News10)-Several witnesses took the stand today in the trial of Rensselaer County Executive Steve Mclaughlin. McLaughlin is accused of withdrawing money from his campaign fund to pay off personal debts and News10 has been covering the story since it began.
McLaughin is accused of using his campaign fund to pay off personal debts while he was running for County Executive in 2017. A New York State Police trooper called as a witness during the trial told the jury that he received a call on November 21, 2017 from McLaughlin claiming he was being harassed by a former employee of his office and campaign named Jennifer Polaro.
The Trooper said he call Polaro who said she just wanted back certain personal items including: a MacBook laptop, an iPad, a check for $3,500 and a dog named “Batman”. The Trooper told the jury that he set up a meeting place in his barracks parking lot, were a man who he could not identified today, drove up to deliver the items. The trooper says Polaro told him that all but the dog was returned to her on that day.
Prosecutors with the Attorney General’s Office alleged that the man who delivered the items and the $3,500 check was longtime GOP political operative and McLaughlin ally Rich Crist. They claim the money given to Polaro was a portion of $5,000 from McLaughlin’s campaign fund funneled through Crist’s consulting fund Hudson Valley Strategies.
But the defense says the $5,000 check given to Hudson Valley Strategies was all legitimate and simply payment for consulting work, and that McLaughlin did nothing illegal.
In her testimony, Jennifer Polaro said that she loaned Mclaughlin money in 2016 for a rental property on Antonio Court and for a final loan for his mother’s cremains after his mother passed away in January 2016. Polaro says that Mclaughlin‘s mother was cremated, and her cremains sat in a funeral home for 11 months. Polaro also claims that she purchased a dog named “Batman”, but that McLaughlin kept the dog.
During the cross examination of Polaro, the defense brought up the fact that she previously pleaded guilty in a Schenectady court to stealing money from McLaughlin’s campaign fund from when he ran for New York State Assembly. Polaro admitted to using the fund’s ATM card without permission for the purpose of gambling at Rivers Casino.
She also admitted to a deal she made with the Attorney General’s Office, agreeing to plead guilty to the theft and testify against McLaughin to avoid jail time. The prosecution underscored the fact that it was Polaro who approached them first.
McLaughlin is facing two felony charges, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree.