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Jury selected in Zeller trial, openings begin today

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CANTON — Opening statements in the trial of Bobbie Jo Zeller, the woman accused of scamming a Potsdam woman out of more than $3,000 with stories of financial hardship, are ready to begin following Tuesday’s conclusion of jury selection.

Eleven women and four men were chosen to sit on the trial, which is scheduled to begin at 9:45 a.m. today.

Ms. Zeller, 37, of 72 W. Main St., is facing two felony counts of third-degree grand larceny. It’s alleged that from August 2011 to September 2012, Ms. Zeller, by telling stories about her sick son and problems paying her bills, cajoled Gloria J. Dietze, Potsdam, into giving her more than $3,000.

Ms. Zeller, a convicted felon with a record of fraud charges, turned down a plea offer Friday to three counts of grand larceny that would have satisfied these charges and an additional two counts of second-degree grand larceny, two counts of third-degree grand larceny and one count of first-degree scheme to defraud.

Those charges stem from allegations that Ms. Zeller used false pretenses to steal more than $300,000 from the late Monsignor Robert L. Lawler, parishioner June H. McQueeney of Waddington and others from fall 2010 to January 2013.

A trial is pending Special Prosecutor Nicole M. Duve’s appeal of St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards’s Sept. 24 dismissal of three counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument that were brought against Ms. Zeller based on “lack of legally sufficient evidence.”

Judge Richards warned Ms. Zeller when she rejected the plea deal that more evidence likely would be brought against her at trial, which all would be considered at sentencing.

“I don’t know where your mind set is, Ms. Zeller,” Judge Richards said. “But I am concerned that you are not logically and rationally evaluating what is taking place here.”

Judge Richards said that because of the extensive media coverage of her case, potential jurors would recognize her name and the allegations against her, resulting in a potential and uncontrollable bias.

“You want to take that risk, I can’t stop you,” Judge Richards said. “I’m trying to get you to understand the full breadth of the situation.”

If convicted after the first trial, she faces a maximum of 3 to 7 years in prison. She is represented by attorney Brian D. Pilatzke.

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