CANTON The first day of the larceny trial of Bobbie Jo Zeller was cut short Wednesday when the lead witness stormed out of the courtroom in tears.
Zeller, 32, of Norfolk, faces two counts of third-degree grand larceny, accused of scamming Potsdam resident Gloria J. Dietze out of more than $3,000.
Wednesday afternoons testimony focused on Ms. Dietzes financial records. Special Prosecutor Nicole M. Duve used the records in an attempt to show how Ms. Dietze regularly provided Zeller with payments ranging from $80 to $500, with the expectation of being paid back. Ms. Dietze said Zeller reportedly told her she was waiting for a $174,000 payment from the county and she would repay her once she received that money.
Defense attorney Brian D. Pilatzke attempted to highlight discrepancies between Ms. Dietzes records and her testimony.
After more than two hours of questioning from both attorneys, Ms. Duve asked Ms. Dietze to clarify the story behind an A.T.M. withdrawal made in 2011. She asked whether the cash had been given to Zeller. Ms. Dietze said it had.
When Ms. Duve asked Ms. Dietze how she could be sure, Ms. Dietze responded it was because she didnt pay any of my bills.
When Ms. Duve asked her to clarify her statement, Ms. Dietze became upset and threw the photocopies of her financial records in the air.
She knows it, she said, pointing at Zeller before storming out of the courtroom with tears in her eyes.
Dont ask me to come back, because Im not, she said as she left.
The incident happened just a few minutes before court was scheduled to wrap up for the day. Judge Jerome J. Richards adjourned the trial after the incident, admonishing members of the jury not to consider Ms. Dietzes final comments when the time comes for them to deliberate.
It was a statement made under emotional stress, and it should not be considered, he said.
The trial began just before noon Wednesday.
In her opening statement to the jury of nine women and three men, Ms. Duve said she would prove Zeller was behind a good old-fashioned con.
This case is not complicated, and I dont expect it will take very long, she said.
Mr. Pilatzke said the prosecutions case is built on untruths and shaky logic.
When you hear this case from the witness stand, I want you to ask yourself two questions, he told the jury. Why doesnt this story make sense, and why does it keep changing?
According to Ms. Dietzes testimony, her brother, Robert L. Dietze, introduced her to Zeller in 2011. At first, Mr. Dietze asked his sister for money to pass along to Zeller. Once Ms. Dietze met Zeller for herself, she began making payments herself, sometimes neglecting her own bills to help the Norfolk woman, according to her testimony. She said she was living on Social Security Insurance at the time.
These payments were always in cash. Her records and her memory are incomplete, so the exact amount of money lent is unknown, although it is alleged to be between $3,000 and $4,000.
Ms. Dietze said she believed the money was to help Zellers diabetic son. She stated Zeller promised to pay back double what she borrowed.
I thought we were friends, Ms. Dietze said. She was good to me. She would come and talk with me.
Mr. Pilatzke pointed to discrepancies between the testimony and the financial records. He focused on payments Ms. Dietze claimed to have given to her brother to pass on to Zeller on Aug. 25 and 27, 2011, even though she had earlier stated her first such payment was not made until Aug. 28.
There was some discussion in the courtroom before the trial began about whether to allow certain evidence and testimony.
Ms. Duve argued that testimony from some of Zellers other alleged victims would confirm Ms. Zellers ambition to scam others.
Ms. Zeller is accused of stealing more than $300,000 from the late Monsignor Robert L. Lawler and others, charges which have not yet been brought to trial. She turned down a plea deal that would have combined the charges involving all the alleged victims.
Mr. Pilatzke argued such testimony had no bearing on the current case.
Judge Richards has yet to decide on the matter. The trial will resume at 9:45 a.m. Friday.