VERO BEACH — More than two years after the arrest of Ira Hatch in January 2008 for grand theft, fraud, money laundering and racketeering, the now disbarred lawyer finally gets his day in court with opening arguments scheduled first thing Wednesday morning.
Hatch, 62, is accused of 46 criminal counts of mishandling and/or stealing up to $4.5 million from the clients of his law firm, Hatch & Doty and his company, Coastal Escrow Services Inc. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Family members who may testify include his wife, Margaret (Marjorie) Hatch, daughter Danielle Hatch and son Rory Hatch.
Here’s a quick look at some of the major players expected to testify in the trial which could last as long as three months:
Senior Judge James Midelis — Officially retired since 2005, Midelis was recruited to handle this case after the sudden recusal of Judge Robert Hawley. Before being appointed a county judge by Gov. Bob Graham, Midelis served as a prosecutor for nearly 15 years and worked on several high-profile capital crime cases, including the David Gore murder trial, for which he got a conviction.
Ryan Butler and Levering Evans — The prosecution. The team for State Attorney Bruce Colton’s office has a former FBI agent and a forensic accountant working on the case.
Greg Eisenmenger and Robert Berry – The defense. Hatch’s legal team is working pro bono from offices in Viera in Brevard County. Eisenmenger has hired a computer expert to examine files obtained from computers at the offices of Hatch & Doty and Coastal Escrow. They have spoken very little in public about their defense strategy.
Ed Ahrens — Investigator for State Attorney Bruce Colton. Ahrens worked on gathering evidence in this case. He’s the retired City of Vero Beach Police detective who interviewed top city staffers and consultants as part of a grand jury investigation last fall about the city’s handling of the Orlando Utilities Commission contract.
Det. Lee Evans – Vero Police detective who did most of the legwork during a three-month investigation of the Hatch case after Coastal Escrow Services closed its doors on Memorial Day 2007. Evans holds the keys to an entire room full of paper evidence obtained by the Vero Beach Police Department. Approximately 500 exhibits are expected to be entered into the court record — by the State alone.
Kevin Doty — Hatch’s former business partner in the law firm Hatch & Doty. Doty is still practicing law from the offices of Hatch & Doty (sign now changed) in downtown Vero Beach. Both the state and defense indicate that Doty will be a key witness.
Louis “Buck” Vocelle – Attorney representing Doty. Vocelle has successfully managed to get the court to allow Doty to retain possession of computers containing evidence of client records and financial transactions in his law office to this day. Doty had received a subpoena to surrender the computers — which were not taken when police seized Hatch’s computers and files. As a compromise, Doty was ordered to provide hard copies of specific records and copies of the computers’ hard drives to the defense.
The client list – There is a list of about 800 people, companies, Realtors and estates that are said to have lost money entrusted to Hatch through his law firm and Coastal Escrow Services. More than 100 of the parties listed in court records have either homes or offices on the barrier island. Each name was read to prospective jurors to ferret out bias or conflicts; about 110 of the alleged victims are scheduled to testify.