At the close of yet another hearing on making restitution to her former employer, former Bergen resident Michele Ann Case made it clear how unhappy she is with HomeCare & Hospice, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman and The Batavian, accusing all of lying about her and defaming her good name.
Case called Friedman unethical. She said he had been duped by HomeCare & Hospice. Friedman, she also said, is just posturing for The Batavian, which she accused of libel.
"Then I want to go to jail and not pay any more restitution," Case told Judge Charles Zambito after Zambito warned her about her conduct. As she spoke, two deputies in the courtroom positioned themselves directly behind the chair she was sitting in.
She continued, "I don't want to see that man anymore," pointing at Friedman.
At the end of Case's rant, and before she could start again, Zambito adjourned the hearing.
Shortly after leaving the courtroom, Case emailed the following statement to The Batavian:
Please be advised that you have repeatedly printed lies about me on The Batavian and I hereby demand that you print an immediate retraction for your past 2 libelous posts. I also demand that you immediately cease & desist spreading falsehoods to the community I proudly served! Eventually, new evidence will exonerate me and implicate my former employer for falsely reporting a theft and insurance fraud and the DA will be brought up on ethics violations & prosecutor misconduct!
Case has been in legal trouble in Genesee County since 2010 when she was accused of stealing more than $35,000 from an elderly patient. Those charges were eventually dismissed for reasons never officially disclosed by the court.
In 2011, she was accused of painting a mailbox that didn't belong to her, and later that year she was arrested and accused of bilking HomeCare & Hospice out of thousands of dollars by falsifying business records.
That case went to trial in 2012 and she was convicted by a jury but the conviction was overturned. An appeals court ruled that documents entered into evidence at trial were prejudicial and thereby denied Case her right to a fair trial.
Case was retried in 2014 and convicted again.
After the first conviction, a hearing was called to determine the amount of restitution Case owed HomeCare & Hospice and Judge Robert C. Noonan ruled that she would be required to pay $14,000.
Her attorney at the time tried to argue that restitution should be limited to the amount of money specified under the legal definition of third-degree grand larceny, which was $3,000.
Today, Case suggested that she has made restitution payments and that she owed no more than $2,500. It's not clear, but it appears Case believes The Batavian's prior reporting on the amount of restitution is libelous. Friedman said it was his impression that Case is claiming she's made sufficient payments to reduce the amount of restitution to $2,500. He said the court has been unable to confirm payments with officials in Niagara County, where Case now lives.
The issues currently in dispute about restitution, in this case, are whether Zambito has the authority to compel restitution and to set a payment schedule.
Since her second conviction, Case moved to Erie County and then Niagara County. Each time, her probation followed her into those counties. Public Defender Larry Ader, now representing Case -- though at the start of her rant in court this afternoon she told Zambito she was firing Ader -- said he believes that because Case was last on probation in Niagara County, and is no longer on probation. Ader maintains that only a Niagara County judge can issue a restitution order and that only the probation department in Niagara County can collect that restitution.
Zambito said he believes he has jurisdiction over restitution in this case and that he can order Genesee County Probation Department to collect the restitution.
Ader said it would be up to an appeals court to resolve the different views.
Prior to today, Case was supposed to supply a financial statement to help the court determine the amount of monthly payments, along with supporting documents. Friedman said the financial statement was delivered to his office late and that it only received any supporting documents 45 minutes prior to today's hearing. But with just a quick review of the documents, he said they appeared to be inadequate to support the financial statement.
According to Ader, Case hasn't been working while out on disability but should be cleared to work soon. In the meantime, her only source of income has been Social Security survivor benefits paid out on behalf of her 16-year-old child, who lives with her in Lockport.
Friedman suggested a hearing might be needed so Case could be placed under oath to testify about her ability to make restitution payments. But after a conference with the Zambito and Ader at the bench, Zambito said he was going to order, for now, payments of $50 a month. That is the amount in the prior restitution order; they are to start at the beginning of the month.
Another hearing is scheduled 9:30 a.m., Jan. 7.