Numbers dwindling in jury pool for Ira Hatch fraud trial

VERO BEACH — Jury selection droned on for a fourth day Thursday with 34 jurors out of the initial pool of 150 coming back to court Friday for continued questioning as attorneys for the state and the defense attempt to come up with a panel of six jurors and four alternates in the fraud case against Vero Beach attorney Ira Hatch.The day began with 41 potential jurors listening to Senior Judge James Midelis read the 46 charges against the 62-year-old Hatch during the morning session and then announcing the name of each of the 800 potential witnesses to determine if anyone on the panel had a connection with anyone  in the case. If the lawyers are unable to settle upon 10 jurors out of the 34 left, a new panel of 50 potential jurors will be called in on Tuesday. Midelis read slowly and carefully all the allegations made by the State of Florida in an information document filed by prosecutors. The 46 charges — a number reduced from 54 in recent weeks — range from first degree grand theft to racketeering to money laundering. Midelis reminded jurors that the printed allegations presented are not proven fact and that the sole burden to prove the crimes charged against Hatch rests with Assistant State Attorneys Lev Evans and Ryan Butler, who are prosecuting the case.”The information that the court just read to you is not evidence,” Midelis said.Contained within the list of charges are the names of hundreds of people, estates, businesses and real estate brokers who allegedly lost money that was placed in the care of Hatch and his company Coastal Escrow Services Inc. Dates given to place the crimes chronologically begin on the date the clients’ checks were deposited and end on Sept. 4, 2007, the date Hatch closed the doors of Coastal Escrow Services and the money was no longer available to the depositors.Where that money went, when it went out of the accounts and for what purposes will be the subject of the upcoming trial, which is expected to begin on Tuesday, should a jury be selected this week.Defense attorney Greg Eisenmenger argued on Thursday that the state had dragged its feet in providing specifics about the charges in the 28-month-old case. Eisenmenger also claims that prosecutors have not done an adequate job of following the money, a weakness in the case against Hatch that he intends to bring out in the trial by challenging the validity of evidence and cross examining the more than 100 witnesses expected to testify.

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