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Former Hogan chief of staff pleads not guilty to federal wire fraud and theft charges

Roy McGrath, the former chief of staff to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, is pleading not guilty to federal charges that he misled officials into paying him a six-figure severance from his previous job and misused government money.

McGrath, 52, entered a not guilty plea during a brief arraignment hearing before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson on Friday afternoon.

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McGrath, who spent 11 weeks as the Republican governor’s top adviser in 2020, spoke only to answer routine questions and acknowledge that he understood the federal indictment against him. McGrath now lives in Florida and appeared at the hearing remotely.

Another judge previously ordered that McGrath could remain free while awaiting trial.

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Federal prosecutor Joyce K. McDonald told the judge that she expects a trial in the case to last two weeks.

In response to questions from the judge, McDonald and McGrath’s Lutherville-based attorney, Joseph Murtha, said they have not yet encountered any issues with scheduling or the discovery phase of the case.

“There’s a lot of information that’s forthcoming and the government has been clear that there’s a lot coming,” Murtha said.

McGrath previously had been represented by attorneys from the Greenbelt-based firm MarcusBonsib.

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If convicted, McGrath faces up to 20 years in prison on each of four federal charges of wire fraud and up to 10 years in prison on each of two federal charges of misappropriation.

McGrath also is facing charges of misconduct in office and wiretapping in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. Prosecutors have alleged in that case that McGrath illegally recorded conversations with Hogan and other officials without their knowledge, a violation of the state’s wiretapping laws. A status conference in that case is scheduled for next month.

All told, McGrath faces six federal counts and more than two dozen state charges related to his conduct as executive director of the Maryland Environmental Service, a job he held before Hogan brought him to the State House to be his chief of staff in June 2020.

The Baltimore Sun reported in August 2020 that McGrath had negotiated a payout worth a full year’s salary of about $233,650, plus more than $5,000 in tuition reimbursement, from the Maryland Environmental Service when he left voluntarily to join the governor’s team.

Board members of the environmental service have testified publicly that McGrath led them to believe Hogan approved the payout. Hogan has repeatedly denied he had detailed knowledge of McGrath’s negotiations.

Days after The Baltimore Sun reported McGrath’s severance deal, he resigned. An investigation by state lawmakers and a criminal investigation were then opened, with charges filed this fall.

McGrath has defended the payout as customary at the environmental service and maintains that he had Hogan’s support. Though when he was called to testify before state lawmakers, he offered little in the way of explanation, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination at least 170 times.

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