Paper chase continues in Ira Hatch theft trial

VERO BEACH — Attorneys on both sides of State vs. Hatch have years of litigation experience, but on Monday they were all basically paper pushers, reviewing and passing around 75 Coastal Escrow client files prior to most of them being admitted as evidence.Just as the examination of bank records consumed most of last week’s courtroom time, Monday’s testimony focused on document procedures at Coastal Escrow Services and the contents of select files. Former bookkeeper and file clerk Brenda Klotzer spent the day thumbing through the folders after defense attorney Gregory Eisenmenger and defendant Ira C. Hatch took hours to personally review the records, forms, deposit reports and escrow contracts contained in the files. It was unclear why the defense team had not reviewed the voluminous files prior to the trial and why court time had to be taken to do so. When asked if, in his experience, he found this to be a standard practice in such a criminal case, Prosecutor Lev Evans said the judge allowing Hatch the time to go through every file, when the defense had already copied them “page by page” was very unusual.Before 10 a.m., the jury was excused until 1:30 p.m. and when they returned at 1:30 they were again excused until 3 p.m. because the defense still needed more time.”The good news is that I think we’ll be ready for them at 3 p.m.” Eisenmenger told Judge James Midelis.”Wonderful,” Midelis replied, “I’m glad you all are working together.”The relationship between the state and the defense has been adversarial at best and hostile at worst. One tack of the defense’s argument has been that the state has botched its way through discovery of evidence and that prosecutors have not adequately followed “the money trail” pinpointing the theft of what has been estimated to be more than $4 million in depositor funds which evaporated on Hatch’s watch.Last week, the chain of custody of the files was established via testimony of Det. Lee Evans of the Vero Beach Police Department, who presented bags of files sealed with red evidence tape, files he seized from the offices of Coastal Escrow Services pursuant to three search warrants in September 2007 after Hatch closed the firm. The files, along with what has been estimated as a “small warehouse” full of documents, was recently moved from the Vero Police Department evidence room to a secure lockup at the courthouse.”Every exhibit accepted into evidence will be available to you during deliberation,” Midelis told jurors to assure them that they did not need to commit to memory the thousands of documents that would come before their eyes during the trial, which is expected to take about three months.Klotzer is scheduled to return Thursday morning for cross-examination on her knowledge of the documents contained in the filed. In the meantime, Assistant State Attorneys Lev Evans and Ryan Butler have about 20 witnesses slated to testify on Tuesday and Wednesday. Among those expected to appear are several witnesses and alleged victims who are being flown in from out of state to testify.The first witness scheduled for Tuesday is Pat Mays, an employee of Dale Sorensen Real Estate, who began her testimony last week. Hatch, 62, is a former beachside attorney who was arrested in January 2008 and is facing 46 charges ranging from first-degree grand theft to racketeering and money laundering. The alleged victims who are said to have lost money entrusted to Hatch’s Coastal Escrow Services is upwards of 500 people.

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