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Investigator: Is key corruption figure snitching on others?

8:08 AM, Sep 27, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- J. Kevin Kelley admitted four years ago he was a crook, but he's been a free man ever since.

Kelley is soaking up the sun in Florida while his partners in crime are serving lengthy prison terms.

"It's unusual for him to be out for so long," said Dean Valore, a former federal prosecutor.

"It seems strange he's not in jail," said Mike Benza, a criminal defense attorney and a law professor at Case Western Reserve University.

Benza says federal prosecutors are coddling Kelley.

"I think there's no other way to look at it, that someone who has a prison sentence hanging over him isn't in jail doing their time is getting some benefits from the goverment," Benza said.

Kelley began cooperating with the feds days after they raided county offices and homes in July 2008. He was among the first to plead guilty to corruption charges, admitting to fleecing taxpayers out of nearly $600,000.

"Obviously, there's something going on. The only rational explanation is that he is valuable to the government in some way that justifies not putting him in jail," Benza said.

Kelley has told a federal judge that he suffers from depression and other disorders. Valore says the federal prison system may not be prepared to handle Kelley.

"He might be under some medical condition that his lawyers argue make him not reportable to prison. Maybe they can't treat him at medical facility at a federal  prison," said Valore.

Kelley has snitched on the two major corruption figures.

Jimmy Dimora is serving 28 years behind bars while former county auditor Frank Russo is locked up for 22 years. Both men are under the same roof in Cuyahoga County jail right now, waiting to testify before a county grand jury.

Kelley's lawyer has filed a pre-sentence report which indicates Kelley is ready to be sentenced.  Bu the U.S. Attorney's office says the judge has not yet set a sentencing date and a spokesman had no further comment.

Kelley could not be reached for comment and his attorney did not return a Channel 3 News phone call.

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