NEW YORK — A judge separated a co-defendant from former Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan's criminal case Friday and scheduled jury selection in the main case to begin Tuesday.
The ruling clears the way for the trial of the first Cabinet secretary ever indicted when in office.
Judge John P. Collins made the ruling after three days of hearings on the health of co-defendant Ronald Schiavone that delayed the start of the trial this week.
Collins ruled that Schiavone, 61, who suffered a heart attack on June 25, is not well enough to stand trial and must be tried separately, starting Jan. 12. The trial of the other defendants is expected to be completed by then.
Prosecutors opposed the separation, saying that trying all the defendants together would make it easier to prove that the accused had acted in concert to steal $7.4 million in a subway construction subcontract beginning in 1979.
Ten men and two companies are charged with larceny and fraud in the case, including Donovan, Schiavone and the business they largely own, Schiavone Construction Co. of Secaucus, N.J. All have denied wrongdoing.
The defendants allegedly used an equipment rental scheme to retain money that, under public contracting rules, should have gone to a legitimate minority-owned subcontractor.
Although the alleged theft preceded Donovan's service in the Reagan Administration, the indictment was returned in September, 1984, making him the first sitting Cabinet member to be indicted.
Donovan resigned in March, 1985, after Collins refused to dismiss the charges.
More than 80 motions have delayed the trial, including arguments about wiretap evidence that consumed six weeks of hearings in the summer of 1985. Conflicts in the schedules of the 15 defense lawyers also caused delays.