Costello hearing Monday
Former Clay County Sheriff Larry Costello may enter a guilty plea in Clay County District Court Monday, prosecutor Kathy Keena said Wednesday. The move would help Costello avoid a felony jury trial for theft of public funds. The trial was to star...
Former Clay County Sheriff Larry Costello may enter a guilty plea in Clay County District Court Monday, prosecutor Kathy Keena said Wednesday.
The move would help Costello avoid a felony jury trial for theft of public funds.
The trial was to start Monday. However, a check of the court's schedule lists the appearance as a plea hearing.
Costello referred questions to his attorney, Bruce Quick, who described the appearance as a "status hearing."
Settlement negotiations are ongoing, Quick said, emphasizing "nothing has been resolved."
However, Keena expects Costello to plead guilty to a criminal charge and resolve the case. Keena, an assistant Dakota County attorney who is handling the case for Clay County, declined to discuss specifics.
A plea could resolve the pending case against Costello and any matters arising from a state auditor's report critical of how he ran the Sheriff's Department, Keena said.
In April 2002, prosecutors filed the charge against Costello after accusations he used county funds to purchase six two-way radios that were given to friends for personal use.
Costello repeatedly denied the charge, stating that he often purchased items through the county and reimbursed the expenses from his personal checking account.
He accepted a medical retirement in May 2002.
If the case isn't resolved Monday, "it is still on for further proceedings," Quick said.
Keena has filed a motion asking that any trial be moved to St. Cloud.
Stearns County District Court Judge Elizabeth Hayden, who is handling the case, has not held a hearing on the motion.
In March, the Minnesota state auditor's office released a 16-page report that found Costello violated two state laws in his handling of department finances and equipment in 2001.
The report criticized several questionable purchases. It pointed out expenditures like $2,000 for more than 200 hats, some of which were given out as gifts.
It also claimed Costello failed to follow county procedure when documenting purchases and misused a $10,000 contingency fund.
Costello also faces a federal lawsuit filed by Kathy Cline, a former deputy who claims Costello stalked and harassed her.
The suit, which has yet to be scheduled for trial, also claims Costello discriminated against her and sexually assaulted her while she was an employee of the Sheriff's Department.
Costello has denied her allegations.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555