Check back for more updates from the trial later in the day.
Why I shop downtown — Marty
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Ithaca, N.Y. — The Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office turned to video of a police interview Wednesday morning in the jury trial of a local schools union president accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the union.
Laureen Hamilton, 52, watched in Tompkins County Court around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday as the prosecution played the video of her speaking with Senior Investigator Mike Gray of the Ithaca Police Department.
Hamilton has been charged with felony grand larceny for stealing at least $7,000 from the Ithaca City School District’s Educational Support Professionals union, according to police. The ESP union represents paraprofessionals such as teachers’ aides and classroom assistants, Syracuse.com reported.
James Hickey, Hamilton’s defense attorney, suggested during cross-examination Tuesday that Hamilton’s theft really amounted to little more than confusion over reimbursements from the union.
But in the video, taken Jan. 30, 2014, Hamilton acknowledges that at least some of charges clearly went beyond her union duties.
“The bottom line is: You don’t have the autonomy to make these purchases outside of the union,” Senior Investigator Gray says in the interview. “Do you have the right to authorize that yourself? I’m asking a question.”
Hamilton responded: “No. … I felt I was doing a lot at home and it was easy for me to do it at home … I’m not saying I’m justifying it …”
Gray later asks if it’s fair to say that at least $7,000 of Hamilton’s expenses were unauthorized by the union.
“Yes, sir, I would agree with that,” she says.
Among the expenditures listed by Gray:
— Union payments for a movie at Regal Cinemas.
“It was a movie on unions,” Hamilton says in the video by way of defense. “…It was not like I intended to misuse the funds.”
— Regular breakfasts at Dunkin’ Donuts. “Are you entitled to get coffee and donuts every morning on the union dime?,” Gray asks.
— Home Internet bills, which Hamilton says were necessary because she was doing a lot of her work outside of the office.
— Other regular expenditures at Tops, Wegmans, Wal-mart, Hess, and for gas, for a computer, for GEICO car insurance, and for other expenses.
“I just don’t get it,” Gray says in the video.
Hamilton also argues that her practices were similar to those of the previous union president.
“I’m trying to make ends meet,” she says in the video, “and I’m all over the place in Ithaca.
In the video, Gray wasn’t buying it.
“You knew in your heart of hearts,” he says, “that you were doing something you shouldn’t have been doing.”