Former county commissioner appeals conviction to U.S. Supreme Court over blocked evidence

In 2007, federal investigators began looking into public corruption among a number of county workers and elected officials in Ohio. According to, one of the resulting cases involved a former county commissioner who was found guilty of nearly three dozen white collar crime charges including racketeering and other corruption. The 58-year-old was sentenced to 28 years in a federal prison. He has appealed his case to the Supreme Court of the United States, claiming that a judge refused to allow evidence that would have cleared his name.

In Minnesota and across the country, white collar crime can have serious repercussions. It is imperative that those accused of such activity know their rights before, during and after trial.

Blocking evidence

During the man’s trial, prosecutors stated that the former commissioner had tried to conceal gifts he had received because they were bribes. Among the evidence the man tried to present at the trial, however, were disclosure forms that he said proved he alerted the state about those gifts. His attorneys even told the jury during opening statements that they would see the documents. However, the district court judge at his trial ruled the documents were hearsay and would not allow the evidence.

Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, hearsay is a statement that is made outside of court that a party uses in order to prove a fact. Typically, hearsay is inadmissible unless it meets one of the many exceptions, which include the following:

  • Vital statistics records
  • Market reports
  • A statement against the party’s best interest
  • Religious organizations’ records

Records of regular activity are also exceptions to the rule against hearsay. The man in this case took his case to an appeals court, which ruled that the blocked evidence should have been admitted. However, the three-judge panel determined that the documents would not have changed the jury’s verdict and therefore upheld the lower court’s conviction.

Awaiting a hearing

The man has filed a 74-page writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court asking that the justices review his case for a new trial. There are several roadblocks that may get in the way of the necessary four of nine justices hearing his arguments. Not only is the court currently on break until the end of September, but the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office is also permitted to file paperwork on the prosecution’s behalf, which would also delay the hearing.

Until the Supreme Court reviews the evidence the man’s attorney says are key to his defense, the man is serving his lengthy conviction at a federal prison in California. Additionally, he was ordered to pay $98,000 in restitution. White collar crimes often carry penalties of prison sentences but may also include hefty fines.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

People facing criminal charges in Minnesota often ask, “Can you defend yourself in court?” You can represent yourself in court when charged with a crime. Self-representation, however, is not typically in the accused's best interests, even if courts allow it.
Parents whose children have been arrested or accused of committing a heinous crime might wonder, “Can a minor be charged with a felony?” A minor aged 14 years or older but below 18 years may face felony charges in Minnesota.
People accused of or under investigation for assault might ask, “What are the charges for assault?” Minnesota has five levels of assault charges. First-degree assault is the most serious offense, and a conviction often results in the most severe penalties, like long prison time and hefty fines.