A former top aide to ex-Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan goes on criminal trial in federal court on Monday. Here’s what you need to know about the defendant, Roy McGrath, and the charges against him.
Who is Roy McGrath?
Roy McGrath spent 11 weeks as Hogan’s chief of staff in the summer of 2020, until it was reported that he had negotiated a generous “severance” payment for leaving his prior position at a state agency. McGrath resigned under pressure days after the first news report.
Before his abbreviated stint as chief of staff, McGrath had led the Maryland Environmental Service, an independent state agency that carries out public works and environmental projects for local governments and other state agencies. It also receives funding from the federal government.
McGrath led MES from 2006 until 2020 and was paid one year’s salary of about $233,000 in a “severance” payment approved by the MES board of directors.
McGrath previously held positions as a senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to Hogan.
Before Hogan became governor, McGrath spent 18 years with the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
McGrath lived in Edgewater at the time he worked for Hogan; he’s since moved to Florida.
What is McGrath accused of doing?
Many of federal and state charges center around the severance payment and how McGrath secured it — specifically whether he misled the Maryland Environmental Service Board of Directors into approving the payment by saying Hogan supported it.
Other charges involve McGrath’s timecards, which showed he was working when he was actually on vacation in Europe and Florida.
McGrath is also accused of improperly directing an employee to use nearly $15,000 of MES money to pay for McGrath’s leadership course at Harvard University. And McGrath also had MES pay $15,000 to an art museum on the Eastern Shore to fulfill a personal pledge McGrath had made, prosecutors allege.
McGrath is also accused of creating a fake memo to back up his story that Hogan supported the severance.
The federal charges are five counts of wire fraud, two counts of theft in programs receiving federal funds and one count of falsifying records in a federal investigation.
In a related case that’s pending in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, McGrath is also accused of illegally recording conversations with the governor and other top officials without their consent, which would violate the state’s wiretapping laws.
Who is expected to testify?
A full witness list hasn’t been released yet, but the star witness in the trial could very well be the former Republican governor.
Hogan has said publicly and repeatedly that he did not know the details of the severance payment that McGrath was seeking, and certainly didn’t give his blessing. Now, he’ll have to explain his side of things under oath.
Hogan also has said that he cooperated with investigators.
Prosecutors are likely to put on the stand a number of people who were familiar with McGrath’s work, both from the Maryland Environmental Service and the governor’s office.
As of now it’s looking unlikely that McGrath will testify in his own defense.
Another key figure who is expected to decline to testify is Laura Bruner, now McGrath’s wife, who accompanied him on the vacations when McGrath said he was working.
What evidence is there?
There’s apparently a mountain of evidence in the case, and lawyers for both the prosecution and defense have been homing in on which bits of evidence can be used and which can’t.
There are emails, meeting minutes, expense reports, time cards and more paperwork that could factor into the case. Investigators seized McGrath’s electronic devices, which could have a trove of evidence.
Then there are the recordings that McGrath made of conversations with Hogan and other top officials, allegedly in violation of state law. Prosecutors have asked that they not be allowed to be introduced in the trial; a judge has yet to rule.
A judge already ruled that prosecutors can’t introduce texts and photos from McGrath’s now-wife about their vacation activities.
How long will the trial last?
This trial could take a few weeks.
U.S. District Court Judge Deborah L. Boardman wrote in a scheduling order that the trial should last two weeks, but more recently, lawyers from both sides agreed the trial is expected to take three weeks.
Jury selection starts Monday, and once a jury is seated, the trial will begin with opening arguments.
During the trial, court will be in session Monday through Thursday, with Fridays off.