VERO BEACH, Fla. - A plea deal was announced just after 2 p.m. Monday in the Ira Hatch trial that calls for Hatch to plead no contest to one charge of racketeering. As a result of the deal, the state will drop all the other charges, and a theft charge that was added just before the trial began.
The state has also agreed not to charge him with any future offenses in this case.
Senior Judge James Midelis is now walking Hatch through the entire plea deal and reading aloud the deal.
Hatch could face a fine of up to $12 million.
"You wish to enter a plea of no contest to racketeering?"
"Correct judge," Hatch replied.
When asked if Hatch was taking the deal because he was guilty or because it was in his best interest, Hatch said the deal was in his best interest.
The deal followed a nearly two-month-long trial in which state prosecutors described the 62-year-old disbarred attorney as a “thief” who used money deposited with his former law firm, Hatch & Doty PA and his company, Coastal Escrow Services to support his family’s lifestyle and pay business expenses.
Jurors had been deliberating in the trial since Friday morning.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors said Hatch used his position as an attorney and a well-liked member of the community to lure in largely real estate customers to place their escrow cash with his company in order to pilfer the money for himself.
After a three month criminal investigation launched by the Vero Beach Police in September 2007, Hatch was charged with 56 offenses related to the theft of more than $4 million in client money.
For this trial, Hatch faced 46 counts, which was reduced to 45 before jurors began deliberating.
During the seven weeks of testimony that began June 1, jurors heard from 150 witnesses and viewed about 350 exhibits.
Hatch had maintained his innocence since his arrest. He did not testify at his trial, but is attorney urged jurors to find him not guilty, saying the state had proven he committed a scheme to defraud his clients and he incorrectly was charged with theft, racketeering and money laundering.
IRA HATCH TRIAL:
200: Number of potential jurors called for jury selection that began May 24
8 weeks: Length of trial; testimony began June 1
46: Number of charges Hatch faced at trial, which was later reduced to 45 when judge dismissed a count of operating as an unregistered money transmitter. Hatch faces money laundering, racketeering and 43 counts of grand theft.
152: Number of witnesses who testified, with 145 called by the state and six for the defense
350: Number of exhibits introduced as evidence, with about 300 coming from state prosecutors
40: Number of banker boxes full of records and financial documents from Hatch & Doty PA and Coastal Escrow Services, Inc. entered as evidence
160,000: Number of documents collected by authorities during the investigation
400: Estimated number of objections defense attorney Gregory Eisenmener raised throughout the trial
10: Estimated number of defense motions for a mistrial made during the trial which were denied.