Grand jury to hear Claggett case

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Probable cause found for theft by deception

By Tracy Harris

"This is a very unusual and bizzare case," said Judge Janice Martin Wednesday, after spending the better part of two hours trying to unravel the time line of Donna Claggett's life.

Claggett, of Goshen, was charged in August with theft by deception by the Oldham County School system.

She is accused of owing the county $24,000, because someone else enrolled their child at Liberty Elementary in 2004 and used her address.

That person was Charles Lauron, who continued to put down Claggett's Whirlaway Court home as his son's primary residence until this year.

"I feel like I've been drug through the mud on this whole thing," Claggett said in an interview after the hearing.

Lauron's son has been a student at both Liberty and North Oldham Middle, all while falsely submitting Claggett's address as his own.

The hearing was to determine if there was probable cause Claggett committed a crime — a burden or proof so easily met that Martin said it came down to just one thing: Claggett's signature.

A number of documents were submitted into evidence, including a 2009 affidavit of residency that Martin said is clearly a forgery.

"I would think you know how to spell your own name," Martin said of the 2009 document.

That document, which Lauron is accused of forgering and submitting to the school, had Claggett's name spelled with only one "T."

One other document, however, was enough to meet the burden of proof, she said — and that's a 2004 document that states Lauron was renting a room in Claggett's basement.

That signature matches one Claggett signed on a divorce decree.

Lauron, however, never lived in that basement, said Claggett's husband Anthony Cash while he was on the stand.

In an interview after the hearing, Claggett said the 2004 document makes no mention of Lauron's son or about using the document to send his son to school, which she would not have agreed to — and didn't, when Lauron asked her to sign such an affadavit in 2009.

At one time, Cash and Claggett did tell Lauron he could use their address while he was between homes.

Cash described Laruon as a painter and a frequent customer of Claggett's country store in Skylight.

After permitting him to use their address, Claggett and Cash would take Lauron's mail to the store for him to pick up, Cash said. But, he said there had not been much mail in the past few years, and that there had never been a lot of mail from the school district. 

Patti Such, secretary at NOMS, said end-of-year report cars are mailed to students and they were mailed to the address on Whirlaway Court. Those report cards were not returned to the district, but Cash said no such mail had been received.

Claggett's attorney, William Carter, said in his closing argument that there wasn't an  "iota of evidence" to convict Claggett, and moved to dismiss the case. 

Carter said there was no way to prove Claggett was part of a "conspiracy theory to defraud Oldham County."

But, Martin said she didn't think it was a strong enough for trial, but that it was strong enough for probable cause.

"It appears you are also a victim, due to your good naturedness to this painter," Martin said to Claggett. "But not a victim with clean hands."

"This has just been a series of errors," Martin concluded before announcing her decision that probable cause existed to send the case to a grand jury.

In an interview after the hearing, Claggett said she wonders if the case is retaliation for her being a vocal critic of the school board.

Claggett said she is also obtaining phone records that show she did try to return calls to Dan Orman, assistant superintendent for student services, even though Orman said on the stand she did not. 

No date has been set yet for Claggett's grand jury hearing. Lauron is scheduled for Nov. 2, along with another parent, John Buehner, also charged with fradulent enrollment.

To date, five cases have been filed out of 43 investigations, many of which are still ongoing.