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Assistant DA will appeal judge’s dismissal of forgery charges against Bobbie Jo Zeller

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CANTON — A St. Lawrence County judge’s refusal to overturn his dismissal of forgery charges against a Norfolk woman charged with scamming a priest and his parish out of more than $300,000 will be brought to a higher court by the district attorney’s office.

St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney Alexander Lesyk said the office will appeal the ruling in the Bobbie Jo Zeller case to the state Supreme Court Appellate Division, Third Department, in Albany.

“The court’s decision holds that counterfeiting an entire document is not necessarily a forgery,” Mr. Lesyk said. “We contend that that is counterintuitive and that a counterfeit is a forgery by definition.”

County Judge Jerome J. Richards on Sept. 23 dismissed three counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument that were brought against Ms. Zeller, 36, based on “lack of legally sufficient evidence.” In a motion to dismiss the charges July 24, Ms. Zeller’s attorney, Brian D. Pilatzke, argued that, while it is alleged that Ms. Zeller possessed fake checks, that does not constitute the crime of criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Mr. Pilatzke argues that Ms. Zeller signed her own name on checks she presented to Msgr. Robert L. Lawler, purportedly to pay him back.

Mr. Lesyk said the appeal will help the office better understand how to prosecute cases of forgeries against future defendants.

Ms. Zeller still is charged with two counts of second-degree grand larceny, two counts of third-degree grand larceny and one count of first-degree scheme to defraud.

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