Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More from Alleged Corrupt Cuyahoga County Judge Trial

Russo prepares to entire US District Court
Reporter Jim McCarty at  has more sensational reporting on the ongoing testimony of former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo in the trial of alleged corrupt Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Steven Terry.

"[Convicted felon and former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Ruso] testified Tuesday morning that the campaign assistan[ce] and donations that he gave to Judge Steven Terry came with strings attached.   The disclosure came during Russo's second day on the stand in Terry's public corruption trial and after U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon recalled campaign-related car magnets and other assistance the once influential Democrat provided for the judge's 2008 election.

"Did you expect anything in return for all you did?" Bacon asked.

"Yes, I did," Russo replied. "Basically, I expected Steve to answer the phone anytime I called, to give it attention, to follow through, give me the benefit of the doubt, whether it be a case of whatever. Of course, he would do what I asked him to do."

Russo went on to recall sending a note asking Terry for help with a foreclosure case before the judge. The case was being handled by attorney Joseph O'Malley, a friend of Russo's, and the former auditor testified that he provided Terry with related case numbers and asked that the judge deny a bank motion for summary judgment.

The judge ultimately denied the motion.

Terry, who is on leave pending the outcome of his criminal case, is on trial in U.S. District Court on five charges of mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud [ . . . ]
Prosecutors contend that Terry conspired with Russo to win a judicial appointment. They accused the 53-year-old judge of accepting gifts, bribes and campaign help from Russo and in exchange agreeing to provide favorable decisions for Russo and his friends in court.

Defense lawyer Angelo Lonardo, who has tried to portray Terry as an innocent victim of Russo's criminal schemes, got the former auditor to acknowledge a "dark and secret side," a reference to [Russo's] conviction on 21 corruption-related crimes.

Russo, who faces nearly 22 years in prison, is cooperating with prosecutors in an attempt to reduce his time behind bars.

On Tuesday, he went on to explain that, although he offered his support and endorsements to many Democratic Party candidates in the county, but only provided wide-ranging assistance in 2007 and 2008 to three candidates: Terry, his brother Anthony Russo, who was running for judge in probate court, and Common Pleas Court Judge Brendan Sheehan. All three candidates won their elections in November 2008. Bacon asked Russo if, in return for his extraordinary campaign help, he expected Sheehan to answer his phone calls and perform legal favors in court cases such as prosecutors contend Terry performed for Russo.

"After all the help I gave him, yes I would have," Russo responded."
This is stomach turning stuff. 

Judge Sheehan, referred to in the testimony, is according to lawyer friends, himself an outstanding lawyer, former prosecutor and apparently former bailiff to US District Judge Donald Nugent.  U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent is also a former Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge as well as a former major crimes prosecutor in Cuyahoga County.  Nothing in this testimony apart from Russo's belief that Judge Sheehan was beholden to him, implicates Judge Sheehan in corruption.  But you can see,  it's one of the wrinkles in this sordid tale that a good and decent judge's reputation can be sullied in the political corruption connected to selection and election of judges when the process is corrupt.

Overnight, Plain Dealer reporter McCarty added the following details.  When asked whether there were other Common Pleas judges Auditor Russo felt he could "influence" he nonchantly responed: mmmm, yeah probably ten.  That would be 10 Common Pleas Judges out of some 30 sitting judges in Ohio's largest county. 

And as to Judge Terry's denial of the motion for summary judgment that's at the heart of the trial, the AUSA elicited testimony from Judge Terry's "Magistrate" (these folks were formerly called "staff attorneys" an served in the role of "law clerk")--as follows:

"Terry’s former magistrate, Monica Klein, testified later that she was surprised when the judge ordered her to deny the motion without providing any explanation for his decision and without even looking at the court file, which she had kept in her office.

'I had never had a request or a conversation with a judge like this ever before,'  Klein said. 'It was strange.'”
NO, if true,  it was corrupt.

1 comment:

  1. I would just put in a word for Judge Sheehan, who has an amazing story and is very well respected. Here's some good background: