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Government & Politics Justice

Fraud trial of Hogan’s former chief of staff is delayed

Roy McGrath, pictured here during his brief tenure as Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief of staff. Photo from the Executive Office of the Governor.

A federal trial involving Gov. Larry Hogan’s former chief of staff, Roy McGrath, has been put off, perhaps until next year.

McGrath is accused of lying to top officials at the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) to win a $233,647 “severance” payment. He served as CEO of the quasi-governmental agency prior to accepting Hogan’s 2020 offer to join the administration.

He faces both state and federal charges and was scheduled to go on trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Monday.

McGrath faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each of five counts of wire fraud; a maximum of 10 years in federal prison for each of two counts of embezzling funds from an organization receiving more than $10,000 in federal benefits; and a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for the charge of falsifying a document.

His attorney, Joseph Murtha, argued in a written pleading that federal prosecutors made thousands of pages of potential evidence available for review only in the last few days, making it impossible for him to be ready for trial.

Prosecutors said they sought to keep the trial on schedule. In a written brief, they said they provided the material — MES documents, text messages and emails, mostly — as quickly as they could. They denied any suggestion that they have been “delinquent” in their efforts.

They said the majority of the documents already had been disclosed to the defense. “The government undertook its own survey of the 6,636 pages yesterday and excluded attachments, scheduling emails, and duplicate emails and determined that there were 323 pages of new, substantive emails,” prosecutors wrote in the brief. .

Many of the documents only became available on Sept. 26, they wrote, after former MES deputy director Beth Wojton agreed to have her phone searched. “Like all text messages, they are short, easy to read and are sorted by the MES employee,” prosecutors told the court.

A longtime MES employee, Wojton was passed over for the top job when the agency’s board selected McGrath. When the legislature conducted a series of high-profile hearings into McGrath’s lavish severance, she was something of a star witness. The agency’s board told lawmakers they had qualms about the payout but were leery of crossing the popular Hogan if — as McGrath insisted — the governor “anticipated” it.

McGrath’s attorney and government prosecutors met via teleconference on Thursday, with Judge Deborah Boardman granting the defense motion to delay the trial. She did not set a new date. The new date will probably be some months off, per a source familiar with the case.

The government is expected to call Hogan as a witness.

McGrath alleges that the governor approved his request for a year’s severance when he moved from MES to the administration, but Hogan has vigorously denied that claim. A memo to Hogan outlining the severance package, which McGrath claims contains a blue check-mark from the governor, is expected to be a key piece of evidence. A Hogan spokesman has called the document a forgery.

McGrath, who is now living in Florida, also received approximately $55,000 in work-related expenses when he left MES.

He lasted just ten weeks as Hogan’s chief of staff. He resigned within days of a Baltimore Sun report on his severance.

State charges that McGrath also faces include misconduct in office, misappropriation and theft of funds. His trial in state court is expected to follow the federal trial.