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Investigator: Three more Cuyahoga County judges show up in indictments

9:46 AM, Sep 17, 2010   |    comments
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One is the brother of former county Auditor Frank Russo, who pleaded guilty today to 21 corruption charges. County Probate Court Judge Anthony Russo has not been charged but fits the description of Public Official 11, described in the indictment of Dimora.

Federal prosecutors said in the indictment that Dimora and Frank Russo sought gifts, entertainment and a fundraiser for Judge Russo from county Auditor's Office employee Jerry Skuhrovec.

Prosecutors said a fundraiser Skuhrovec hosted in March 2008 garnered $8,200 for Judge Russo's campaign chest.

In return, Dimora and Frank Russo helped Skuhrovec get a second job as an appraiser in the Sheriff's Office by promising to hire the grandson of then-Sheriff Gerald McFaul for a county job, according to the charges.

Judge Russo did not return a call for comment.

McFaul, who was sentenced to house arrest this summer on state corruption charges, was not named in the federal indictment and has not been charged as part of the ongoing federal corruption probe.

Then there's county Domestic Relations Judge Cheryl Karner. She isn't named in the indictment, but the description of Public Official 8 in Wednesday's indictment matches her description.

Prosecutors say Dimora -- at contractor Steve Pumper's request -- contacted Karner to try to expedite Pumper's divorce proceedings. Pumper has admitted to bribing Dimora and is cooperating with prosecutors.

Karner denied any wrongdoing.

"Dimora called the office, I refused to take the call and then never talked to him," Karner said. "I never talked to him about the Pumper case."

The federal indictment also involves an unidentified Common Pleas Court judge. Prosecutors said Dimora used his influence on the judge to arrange a meeting involving a halfway house that's been linked to bribes and a trip to Las Vegas that Dimora went on in April 2008.

The two judges indicted by a federal grand jury, meanwhile, maintain their innocence.

Judge Steven Terry was charged with judicial corruption after being accused of accepting bribes and political help from Russo, in return for helping Russo's friend in a civil case.

And Judge Bridget McCafferty was accused of lying to FBI agents about her secret dealings on court cases with Frank Russo and Dimora.

"I was never concerned because I know of my own integrity and I never thought the day would come that I would receive a call" about being charged, McCafferty said Wednesday.

If that is so, then why did McCafferty fail to report campaign help from the Auditor's Office?

Prosecutors said Russo directed his campaign and his public office to give "property" to McCafferty's judicial campaign from 2003 to 2008 in return for favors from the bench.

But Channel 3 News found no mention of that "property" in financial disclosure forms filed by McCafferty with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

Jane Platten, director of the elections board, said state law requires candidates to report contributions, expenditures and loans.

That includes goods and services candidates get in lieu of monetary contributions.

"I don't think that we've ever seen Cuyahoga County Auditor's Office or Cuyahoga County any office listed as a contribution or contributor," Platten said.


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