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Judge dismisses three of eight counts against Zeller

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards dismissed three of the eight charges against Bobbie Jo Zeller, the Norfolk woman charged with scamming a priest and his parish out of more than $300,000.

Judge Richards dismissed three counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument that were brought against Ms. Zeller by a grand jury based on “lack of legally sufficient evidence,” according to the order issued today.

Ms. Zeller’s attorney, Brian D. Pilatzke, filed a motion to dismiss the charges on July 24, questioning the term “forgery.”

Mr. Pilatzke argued that the forgery charges should be brought into question as Ms. Zeller signed her own name on checks she presented to Monsignor Robert L. Lawler herself in the amount of $300,000, $25,000 and $6,800, purportedly to pay him back.

According to the indictment, Ms. Zeller “engaged in a scheme constituting a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with intent to defraud more than one person or to obtain property from more than one person by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises.”

Mr. Pilatzke said he took issue with the allegations of Ms. Zeller’s possession of the checks.

“The issue is that what the indictment alleges that she did with respect to possessing checks they allege are fake does not constitute the crime of criminal possession of a forged instrument, second,” Mr. Pilatzke said. “Ultimately, I was able to convince the court of that fact, and the court correctly dismissed those counts.”

In his order to dismiss the three counts, Judge Richards wrote the definition of a forged instrument could have been drafted to include the conduct that took place in the dismissed charges, but did not.

“There is no grand jury evidence establishing that Bobbie Jo Zeller pretended to be someone other than herself in creating phony checks naming a fictitious account and then signing the checks herself,” Judge Richards wrote.

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