Akron: Opening statements in McCafferty trial

2:51 PM, Mar 21, 2011   |    comments
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AKRON -- U.S. attorneys began their prosecution of former Cuyahoga County Judge Bridget M. McCafferty, accused of lying to the FBI in the ongoing Cuyahoga County corruption probe.

McCafferty, 45, of Westlake, is accused of lying to the FBI regarding two cases in her court where she allegedly intervened after conversations with then-Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora and then-Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo.

If convicted, she faces five years in prison.

Opening statements took up much of the morning and federal officials plan on putting other witnesses on the stand Monday afternoon when court resumes about 1:30 p.m.

In her opening statement, U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon said this trial is simply "about lies and consequences."

Bacon said Dimora and Russo "used their power, influence and authority to make themselves rich" and each allegedly asked McCafferty to intervene in two separate cases.

One case involved D-A-S President/CEO Steve Pumper, who has already been sentenced in the ongoing probe.

McCafferty's defense attorney Michael Murray began his opening statement with the simple sentence, "Judge Bridget M. McCafferty did not lie to the FBI when they interrogated her on Sept. 23, 2008."

Murray said two FBI agents went to her house that night and approached her in her driveway while she was bringing her trash cans in from the curb.

Murray said she invited them inside and they sat in her kitchen talking for two hours. He said they offered her the chance to cooperate with federal officials and provide information on Dimora and Russo.

They also said that this was her only chance to cooperate.

"The agents didn't record that interrogation, either on audio tape or videotape," Murray said, "...but she told them the truth to the best of her ability."

The two agents took notes and made summaries of the interrogation. 

Murray said she admitted talking to Pumper as she was "mediating" a settlement conference in a lawsuit against him.

Murray said federal officials were not charging McCafferty with racketeering or being involved with the county corruption probe's bribes and kickbacks schemes.

Murray said she was only being charged with "lying to the FBI" and he will prove that she did not lie to the FBI.

"You will just have to decide if she should be branded a felon," Murray told the jury.

Mid-morning, following the two opening statements, federal officials called their first witness, FBI Special Agent Michael Massie, who was not one of the two agents who interrogated McCafferty that night but worked on the probe.

He began explaining what wiretaps had been on Russo and Dimora's cell phones and home phones and began describing how the search warrants were obtained.     

Dimora and Russo were the main targets of the probe. Russo reached a plea agreement with federal officials last year and was sentenced to 22 years in prison but remains out on bond.

Dimora pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to be tried later this year.

McCafferty's case was transferred to U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi after U.S. District Judge Kate O'Malley was appointed to the appeals court. O'Malley had been handling all of the county corruption cases.

McCafferty was arrested on Sept. 14, 2009, along with Dimora and three others. McCafferty pleaded not guilty and asked that her trial be separated from Dimora's. McCafferty lost her bid for re-election in November, 2010.

In December, Lioi granted the separate trial and McCafferty was scheduled for trial which began Friday, when jury selection took place.

McCafferty rejected a plea deal from federal officials on March 10.   


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