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MAHONING COUNTY Vitullo wants bribe-try report



Published: Wed, September 19, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The judge denied all last-minute motions, saying the deadline had passed.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

CLEVELAND -- James A. Vitullo's lawyer wants whatever report may exist that shows how an FBI agent posed as a potential DUI client in an entrapment scheme.

The issue surfaced during a final pretrial hearing Tuesday in U.S. District Court. Trial is set for Oct. 2 for Vitullo, a former Mahoning County assistant prosecutor, and Russell J. "Champ" Saadey, a former prosecutor's investigator.

They are accused of taking part in case fixing with judges, lawyers and James A. Philomena, former Mahoning County prosecutor. Philomena and the others have been convicted and are expected to testify at trial.

Motion: Vitullo's Columbus lawyer, E. Scott Shaw, said in a motion that FBI Special Agent Tony Speranza approached Vitullo in 1996 in his law offices and unsuccessfully tried to bribe or entrap him. "Mr. Vitullo sent him out of the room," Shaw told U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. O'Malley.

"If this was something on the defendant's mind it could have been raised before the final pretrial," Thomas J. Gruscinski, an assistant U.S. attorney, said in court. "I don't know what we have in our files."

The judge instructed Gruscinski to determine if an FBI report of the encounter Shaw described exists. The judge said Gruscinski can make the report available to her first for review in chambers.

Shaw, in his motion, requests a copy of the FBI manual that deals with investigative techniques and the use of confidential informants.

Traficant case: Speranza's name has been cropping up in the racketeering case against U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., of Poland, D-17th. Last week, the government addressed Traficant's accusation that the lead prosecutor in his case, Craig S. Morford, took part in a secret hearing in federal court that involved the congressman's allegation that Speranza raped one of his constituents.

Traficant said Morford took part in the hearing to make his allegation look self-serving.

The woman, who has denied the allegation to The Vindicator, was subpoenaed to Judge O'Malley's court in mid-July -- related to the Vitullo-Saadey case -- but results of the appearance have been sealed.

Speranza was not one of the agents on the Traficant case, won't be called as a witness at trial and, even if the secret hearing took place, it's irrelevant to the congressman's misconduct charge against Morford, the government said.

In court, the government turned over to each defendant two audiocassette tapes that purportedly contain conversations about case fixing. Vitullo and Saadey also each received a mound of documents that represent government evidence.

Motions denied: Judge O'Malley, noting that the deadline for motions had long passed, denied several that Shaw has filed since Aug. 9. The judge said trial had already been reset once and noted the "consternation" the delay caused the government and Saadey's Youngstown lawyer, David J. Betras.

Vitullo's original lawyer, Dennis A. DiMartino, withdrew in late April. Shaw wasn't hired until mid-June.

A federal grand jury handed up a 21-count superseding indictment in June that replaced a 16-count indictment returned last December against Saadey, of Austintown, and Vitullo, of North Jackson. In December, both men were charged with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute.

Vitullo faces 11 counts of extortion. Saadey faces two counts of extortion, three counts of filing false tax returns in 1994, 1995 and 1996, and five counts of making false statements to banks in order to obtain credit cards.

If convicted, Saadey and Vitullo face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine on each of the RICO and extortion counts.

Saadey faces up to three years and $100,000 fine on each of the tax counts. The credit card offenses each carry a maximum of up to 30 years in prison and $1 million fine.

The government alleges that the case-fixing enterprise operated from 1992 to 1997 in Mahoning County. Saadey also is accused of conspiring with others to fix a case in Columbiana County.

meade@vindy.com




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