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Rochester

James Smith Acquitted on All Counts

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Rochester: James Smith Acquitted on All Counts
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Not guilty on all counts was the verdict in the trial of former Deputy Monroe County Executive James Smith.

It was a grueling 20 hours for Smith.

"My faith in the criminal justice system today has certainly been bolstered," he said.

It clearly wasn't an easy decision. Jurors deliberated for 11 hours Tuesday and nearly nine hours Wednesday before finding Smith not guilty on six counts of official misconduct relating to his handling of the ROBUTRAD scandal.

"Well it was a long time to wait," said Smith. "I guess if you had asked me that an hour ago I would have told you something different, but right now obviously waiting twenty hours certainly seemed well worth it and I'm glad it took them just as long as it did to get this right."

Prosecutors accused Smith of ignoring complaints about Robert Morone and ROBUTRAD workers, protecting them after they were caught at a strip club on county time, and hindering the later investigation.

"The case is one that is filled with gray," said prosecutor William Gargan. "It is not black and white; it was never black and white. It's a difficult case, and it's one that I think doesn't lend itself to conceptually easy resolution."

"I believe the absence of proof was that he did anything outside the scope of his job," said defense attorney Joseph Damelio. "I think any decision that he made or anything that he refrained from doing he had a legal right to do so or not to do so."

"Obviously this was something that was very serious to me," said Smith. "This involved my reputation, an entire career working in public service. I'm grateful for the verdict."

As for his plans now:

"You know what, right now I think I'm going to go home with my girlfriend and we're going to eat dinner with my mom and I know I have to let the dog out," said Smith. "So I gotta do that, first things first."

Smith didn't comment on his future after that, or whether that future involves a return to public service or politics.

County GOP Reacts to Verdict

Smith is the second high profile person to have his name cleared in the ROBUTRAD scandal.

Last month Andy Moore, the former executive director of the Monroe County Republican Committee, saw the charges against him thrown out by a judge because of insufficient evidence. The district attorney's office had already dropped a felony charge.

Robert Morone and 10 ROBUTRAD workers have pleaded guilty.

Monroe County Republican Chairman Bill Reilich says he's glad the process now appears to be nearing an end.

"I was not surprised," said Reilich. "I certainly know Jim Smith well, and this may have been a misjudgment of management, but it certainly was not a crime. And what we saw was the system worked insomuch as our county executive called in the authorities, an individual was brought to justice and others are dealing with their particular cases at this time, but I think it just went a little too far."

In a statement, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks writes, "This verdict should give taxpayers confidence that the system works. County government successfully uncovered and rooted out criminal activity and the judicial system fairly determined who should be held responsible: a select few self-serving criminals who blatantly sought to violate the public's trust."

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