MARBLEHEAD — The trial of a former Marblehead police officer charged in connection with the disappearance of more than $12,000 worth of Iraqi currency from a neighbor's home last year was delayed on Tuesday, after several hours of legal wrangling over newly-disclosed evidence in the case.
Lori Knowles, 56, of Marblehead, is facing a charge of receiving stolen property valued at more than $1,200.
Police say that after an elderly neighbor told Knowles' husband about the currency, which he'd just received in a Fedex shipment and hidden in his house, some of the currency, known as dinar, disappeared.
That was around Aug. 2. Five days later, on Aug. 7, the neighbor's wife told police she found the missing money in a trash can outside her house on Pitman Road, placed in a way that she believes was intended for her to find it.
Later that day, as the trash trucks were coming up her street, she went back outside with a bag of trash, she told police, and saw Knowles nearby, with a camera, telling trash truck workers that she was looking for something she'd been accused of stealing in the neighbor's trash.
During a hearing prior to what was supposed to be the start of jury selection in Lynn District Court Tuesday, prosecutor Lynsey Legier sought to introduce new evidence from a witness, who recently disclosed that while he was visiting the elderly neighbor in late July, he'd returned home from an outing and discovered that someone had rummaged through his suitcase.
He then told Legier that he'd just recalled that $200 was also missing from the suitcase.
The prosecutor also sought to allow testimony from another neighbor who says that he had seen Knowles in the elderly couple's yard some time in the days before the money disappeared. Legier said that during a trial preparation meeting with that other neighbor, he now recalled the day he saw Knowles was the same day the elderly neighbors' guest's cash disappeared.
The prosecutor also sought to amend the date of the incident on the court complaint to Aug. 7, to reflect the day she hopes to show, through circumstantial evidence, that Knowles had the cash in hand.
But Paul Moraski, Knowles' attorney, argued vehemently that it would be unfair to force him to go to trial without having had time to respond to the new evidence, and also objected to the change in date on the complaint, saying it would force him to account for his client's whereabouts for five additional days.
That led to a legal standoff for several hours, with Moraski seeking to either bar all of the new evidence and the changed date on the complaint or grant him a continuance.
After several hours of discussion, Judge Jean Curran had ruled on several of the motions, allowing the date to be amended, allowing testimony about the rifled suitcase and the other neighbor's observations, but barring a reference to missing money.
She also granted the delay requested by Moraski, moving the trial to Dec. 3. That created scheduling challenges for Legier, who said the elderly couple had plans to leave the state in a few weeks for the winter, and another witness lives in Florida.
After further discussion, Legier and Moraski reached an agreement to allow at least two of the witnesses to testify via Skype or a recorded deposition.
But it also, Moraski said, creates a hardship for Knowles, who has been unable to work while the case is pending. After leaving the department, she began working as a private investigator.
Moraski had tried to have the case dismissed last year, arguing that police lacked probable cause for the charge.
A judge denied that motion last year.
Moraski also has said police had rushed to judgment based on past incidents while she was on the force, including the investigation that led to her resignation in 2015, into an allegation she had taken financial advantage of an elderly woman she had encountered during a well-being check.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.