EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 28, 2013

Laboy perjury trial set for tomorrow

By Jill Harmacinski
jharmacinski@eagletribune.com

---- — LAWRENCE — Wilfredo Laboy II, son of the convicted public school superintendent, allegedly lied about having his pizza shop menus printed, getting rides to work “on a daily basis” and having repairs and odd jobs done at his Methuen home — all courtesy of Lawrence public school resources, according to recently filed court papers.

Details of Laboy II’s testimony before the Essex County Grand Jury on Sept. 16, 2009 — the backdrop for his pending perjury charge — are detailed in a decision released this past week by Judge John Lu.

The grand jury investigated the elder Laboy, who on March 22, 2012, was found guilty of felony fraud and embezzlement charges. Lawrence superintendent for nearly 10 years, Laboy was convicted of abusing public school resources for personal gain, using school employees to run his personal errands and having pizza menus and other items for his son’s business printed in the school department.

Laboy II, 37, is the fourth and final person with a pending criminal case centered around the school scandal.

With his trial set for tomorrow, Laboy II’s defense attorney Scott Gleason attempted to have the perjury charge dismissed, saying in part the indictment “was overbroad because it did not identify which of his statements before the grand jury were false.”

However, Lu ruled that argument was “unpersuasive.” The grand jury received sufficient evidence to charge Laboy II with perjury in three areas, Lu wrote:

- As it relates to his testimony regarding the printing of menus for his Sal’s Pizza franchise in the Howe Street Superette in Methuen. John Laurenza, an LPS graphic designer, “directly contradicted large portions of Mr. Laboy’s testimony,” Lu wrote.

- Also, Laboy II told grand jurors after he lost his license for a second drunken driving offense, “for the most part” he used several local car services to get to work at Sal’s Pizza locations in North Andover and Lawrence. However, Lu wrote that Christopher Merlino, a school department maintenance worker, testified “98 percent of the time” the superintendent called him and asked him to pick up his son and drive him to work. Two other school workers also told grand jurors they drove Laboy II when Merlino was not available, Lu added.

- And Laboy II told grand jurors Trinity landscaping services snowplowed the Methuen home he shared with his father and other family members. “...however, a number of city officials testified that they snowplowed at the property,” Lu wrote. Four school employees “contradicted portions of Mr. Laboy’s testimony” and “the grand jury could reasonably have concluded that Mr. Laboy’s testimony was false and the he knew his answers were untruthful.”

“Mr. Laboy’s testimony was material to the grand jury proceeding because it involved the Superintendent’s use of school resources for his personal benefit, which was the purpose of the grand jury proceedings,” Lu wrote.

On the flip side, Lu ruled that the grand jury “did not hear sufficient evidence” to charge Laboy II with perjury based on the testimony he gave regarding his children being driven home or to his father’s office by school employees. “Based on the limited evidence presented at grand jury on this issue, probable cause was not shown,” Lu wrote.

Lu also said Laboy II could not be charged with perjury based on two other parts of his grand jury testimony, which pertained to printing of other items beyond menus in the school department, and Laboy II’s relationship with Chris Smith, his former boss when he worked at Sal’s Pizza shops in North Andover and Lawrence.

Previously, Gleason and prosecutor Maureen Wilson Leal had a lobby conference with Lu to discuss a plea arrangement. At least one deal was on the table, the details of which were not released in open court.

If convicted of perjury, Laboy II faces 2 1/2 years in the house of correction or up to 20 years in state prison.

Possible trial witnesses include the elder Laboy, a host of current and former school department employees, police officers and Mark Rivera, Laboy’s former special assistant who pleaded guilty to larceny charges connected to the case. Rivera was the prosecution’s star witness at Laboy’s fraud and embezzlement trial.

Record keepers from three car services, Liberty, Methuen and Apple, may also be called to testify, according to court papers.

Last March, Laboy sentenced to two years in jail, with 90 days to be served. However, he served only 60 days at the Correctional Alternative Center in Lawrence, known as the Farm, after he was released 30 days early for good behavior.

At the Farm, Laboy, an educator for 37 years, worked with inmates trying to obtain high school diplomas.

In addition to the Laboys, failed mayoral candidate Israel Reyes and Rivera were both charged with using the school department’s $500,000 printing press to make up free political literature for local and state candidates.

In October 2011, Reyes, 38, pleaded guilty to two counts of larceny of property valued over $250. He was sentenced to one-year probation and ordered to stay away from the Lawrence Public Schools.

Then in April 2012, Rivera, 35, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of larceny of property valued under $250. He was sentenced to one year probation and ordered to stay away from the Lawrence Public Schools.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.