Mistrial declared for Chesco superintendent charged with theft

A Chester County judge declared a mistrial in the theft and conflict-of-interest case against a former Coatesville Area School District superintendent after his lawyer fell ill during his opening statement Tuesday morning.

Judge Thomas G. Gavin said the lawyer was a victim of the "influenza that's going around."

After Paul Rubino, who is representing Richard Como, lost his train of thought during his opening argument at the Chester County Justice Center, the judge called for a recess. He came back about an hour later to declare a mistrial.

The jury was dismissed. The prosecution and defense had spent an entire day Monday choosing the 12 men and women on the panel. No new date has been set for the trial, which was expected to last seven days.

Deputy District Attorney Thomas Ost-Prisco had already presented his opening statement Tuesday when Rubino became ill.

Tuesday was to have marked the start of a trial in a case that has preoccupied the district's residents since the Chester County District Attorney's Office charged Como in December 2014.

County officials disclosed that they were investigating the district's finances and management after school officials made public some racist and sexist text messages about students and staff that Como exchanged with a district athletic director. The texts also mentioned possible financial impropriety.

Como is accused of diverting student funds, a donation to the school, and summer-school tuition to pay for championship football rings; selling his personal generator to the district, which prosecutors said is a conflict of interest; and practicing nepotism in hiring. He faces more than 40 counts of theft and ethics violations.

Como, 70, resigned as superintendent in 2013 after the school officials found the text messages he exchanged on district-issued cellphones with an athletic director. District officials had hired him as superintendent in 2005. Before that, he worked as a high school principal and head football coach.

mbond@philly.com

610-313-8207@MichaelleBond

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