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Judge refuses to toss out all McCafferty charges

5:48 PM, Mar 23, 2011   |    comments
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AKRON -- Just after 4 p.m. Wednesday, federal prosecutors rested their case against former Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Bridget McCafferty.

Then McCafferty's defense attorney Michael Murray briefly called two witnesses in her defense -- Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Eileen T. Gallagher and former County Auditor Frank Russo's top aide Destin Ramsey.

Both testified about 10 minutes each about how campaign volunteers were recruited and worked judicial campaigns in 2004, the year Gallagher and McCafferty both ran.

Court concluded Wednesday with Murray expecting to call an ethics expert when court resumed at 8:45 a.m. Thursday.

Right before that, Murray asked U.S. District Court Judge Sara Lioi to dismiss the 10 charges of lying to the FBI against McCafferty. She said no to dismissing six of the charges and took the motions for the remaining four charges under advisement until Thursday morning.

McCafferty, 45, of Westlake, is on trial in federal court here before Lioi for allegedly lying to the FBI on Sept. 23, 2008, about her actions involving two cases in her courtroom.

Prosecutors allege that she intervened in those two cases after conversations with then-Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora and then-Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo.

Russo, 61, and Dimora, 56, were the prime targets of FBI and IRS agents in the widespread Cuyahoga County corruption probe that went public July 28, 2008.

The two cases where McCafferty is alleged to have lied to the FBI involved Dimora's friend, Steve Pumper, and Russo's auditor's offfice employee Anthony Debaltzo.

The two FBI special agents who interviewed McCafferty on Sept. 23, 2008 at her Westlake home, said she became a 'roadblock' to getting more evidence against Dimora and Russo when she did not cooperate with federal authorities.

Testimony by the two FBI special agents -- Gregory Curtis and Christine Oliver -- and attorney Lori J. Brown, from the Ohio Supreme Court's office of disciplinary counsel, lasted until just after 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Brown testified briefly on judicial ethics and how the Ohio Supreme Court handles ethical allegations against licensed attorneys and judges.

On Wednesday morning, Curtis continued his testimony that began late Tuesday afternoon, saying McCafferty repeatedly denied "fixing" any cases in her courtroom for Russo or Dimora.

Curtis said he told McCafferty that the FBI was "building a case against Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo that would involve (racketeering) charges and it's likely you could be involved in it."

Curtis said he was trying to gain McCafferty's cooperation in the corruption case but Curtis said she denied any involvement.

"I believe she lied to me when she denied that she tried to sway the cases," Curtis said, referring to the two cases in her courtroom.  

Oliver said "cooperators are essential in a corruption investigation."

Oliver said McCafferty became a "roadblock" when she wouldn't cooperate and that required the FBI to look for someone else to cooperate with them.

That is why the FBI went to Pumper, the president/CEO of D-A-S Construction, to try and get him to cooperate.

Pumper did cooperate with the FBI. The FBI also has wiretapped conversations between McCafferty and Russo. 

Dimora has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in September and has maintained his innocence since his arrest. Russo pleaded guilty to 21 counts and was senetenced to 22 years in prison.

Russo is cooperating with federal authorities and gave testimony in McCafferty's trial on Tuesday.


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