U.S. Water News Online
RENO, Nev. — A federal judge has ordered a year delay in a trial for officials accused of defrauding the U.S. government to get more water for an irrigation district in northern Nevada's high desert.
The judge agreed with lawyers for the Truckee Carson Irrigation District who argued that starting the trial as scheduled would deny them reasonable time to prepare an effective defense.
"Failure to grant the continuance requested would result in a miscarriage of justice," U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan said in an order postponing the trial until February 2010.
Federal prosecutors already have entered as evidence more than 4,500 pages of documents and 50 CDs and DVDs in their bid to prove the district and three of its employees conspired to defraud the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation by allegedly falsifying records to secure extra water supplies.
A federal grand jury in Reno handed up the indictment in December naming the Fallon-based district, it's project manager Dave Overvold, chief lawyer Lyman McConnell and watermaster John Baker. A second watermaster charged, Shelby Cecil, died last month.
In a motion requesting the delay, lawyers for the accused said the 10 criminal counts they face allege a "broad, overreaching conspiracy with multiple overt acts."
"This case is unusual and complex based on the number of counts and the nature of the prosecution," they wrote.
The judge set a schedule for pretrial discovery over the next year that includes a March 31 deadline for the Justice Department to produce — among other things — "all search warrants, orders authorizing the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications and supporting affidavits that relate to evidence that may be offered at trial."
A federal magistrate entered not guilty pleas last month on behalf of each of the defendants, all of whom maintained their innocence. They remain free without bail.
Prosecutors alleged they were part of a scheme to inflate water delivery data to get extra water credits from the bureau to boost supplies primarily for area farmers and ranchers from 2000-05.
If convicted, they could face 20 years or more in prison.
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