QUEENSBURY — The defense lawyer for the former director of the Lake George Watershed Coalition has asked a judge to dismiss the charges against his client, claiming some aren’t viable because his client was not a “public servant” under state law.
David J. Decker’s counsel has also asked that two trials be held in his case, separating his tax fraud charges from the charges that allege he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in state and federal funds while heading the coalition.
Decker faces 22 felony and misdemeanor charges that accuse him of years of diversion of $440,000 that was meant for environmental projects in the Lake George region, some of which was stolen by paying a company that he created that authorities believe did no work on any of the projects.
Decker, 67, of Burnt Hills, has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer, Joseph Brennan, filed a pretrial motion last week seeking to dismiss the charges for lack of evidence, but specifying the felony charges of corrupting the government and defrauding the government because, he said, Decker was an independent contractor.
“The defendant, David J. Decker, was not a public officer or employee at any time and was not exercising the functions of any such public officer or employee at any time,” Brennan wrote.
Brennan also asked that Warren County Judge John Hall dismiss three tax fraud-related charges against Decker because he believes the statute of limitations had passed to prosecute them. He asked that Hall “sever” the case and that nine other tax fraud counts be tried separately from the charges related to the alleged money theft. To try them together would be prejudicial, he claimed.
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Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone said his office is preparing a response to the motion, but he had no further comment. Court records show his office is currently “digitizing” gigabytes of documents to turn over to the defense in the case.
The coalition is a loosely organized group of public and private organizations that helped push projects to protect and enhance water quality on and around Lake George. Decker led the organization from 2001 until his arrest last year, working much of the time from an office in Lake George Village Hall. He is no longer involved with the organization.
The charges include 21 felonies and one misdemeanor, including counts of grand larceny and a charge of first-degree corrupting the government, a count that is punishable by up to 25 years in state prison. That charge alleges he was a public official and that he “engaged in a scheme to defraud the state” or other municipal entity between September 2007 and December 31, 2016.
Decker was initially arrested in March 2017 after an investigation by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office that was spurred by a complaint from local engineer and taxpayer advocate Travis Whitehead, who delved into the finances of the coalition after Warren County Treasurer Michael Swan questioned financial issues with the coalition.
Decker claimed that the money had not been stolen and that any payments he received were legitimate, prompting a state Lake George embezzlement investigation that led to additional charges that accused him of lying on his 2012, 2013 and 2014 tax returns by not claiming the income.
No trial date has been set pending rulings on pretrial motions. Decker is free on bail.