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CLEVELAND Saadey to serve 55 months



Published: Sat, April 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Austintown man maintains his innocence and will appeal.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

CLEVELAND -- Russell J. Saadey Jr., who a federal judge said "cast a dark cloud" over the court system in Mahoning County, received a 55-month prison sentence.

Thomas J. Gruscinski, an assistant U.S. attorney, asked Friday that U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. O'Malley increase the standard sentence of 41 to 51 months to 46 to 57 months.

Gruscinski said the Austintown man was one of the few involved in Mahoning County corruption cases who failed to accept responsibility.

The prosecutor said Saadey took an active role in case-fixing negotiations. What Saadey did, the prosecutor said, undermined public confidence in the judicial system.

Rejected lighter sentence

Judge O'Malley rejected a request by one of Saadey's lawyers, David J. Betras, to sentence at the low end. Betras said Saadey simply delivered bribes, allegedly, and had no leadership role.

Betras asked for mercy, saying Saadey's conviction has ripped his family apart. The lawyer pointed to the gallery, noting Saadey's family was there to support him.

"Think of his family," Betras said. "You're a judge, but you're also a mother, too."

The judge said she didn't put his children in this position, he did.

Judge O'Malley said she had no doubt that Saadey had been a key player and wielded substantial influence -- at times frightening influence -- over James A. Philomena, former Mahoning County prosecutor. She said Saadey made a mockery of the prosecutor's office.

The judge noted that she had received many letters of support for Saadey from family, friends and members of the Mahoning County Bar Association.

Asked for mercy

Saadey, who plans to appeal, told Judge O'Malley before she announced the sentence that he did a lot of harm to his family and understood she had a job to do. He said he maintains his innocence and asked for mercy, especially for his family.

A jury found the 47-year-old Austintown man guilty Oct. 19 of racketeering conspiracy, extortion, filing three false income tax returns and submitting five false credit card applications. The charges related to the mid-1990s when he served as an investigator for Philomena, now in a federal prison.

Judge O'Malley ordered that Saadey pay nearly $24,000 in restitution to banks that issued him credit cards. He must also pay $4,095 -- the cost of the prosecution. He was not fined.

The judge said she will recommend a prison near Saadey's home. He remains free on bond until the federal Bureau of Prisons informs him where to report to begin his term.

While in prison, he must participate in an alcohol abuse program.

With "good time," Saadey would serve 46 months in prison.

Community service

Once released, Saadey must do 150 hours of community service and attend an outpatient program for alcohol abuse.

The jury that found Saadey guilty in October freed his 45-year-old cousin, James A. Vitullo, also of Austintown. Vitullo served as assistant prosecutor in Austintown until Philomena left office at the end of 1996.

The government built its case against Vitullo primarily on the testimony of an ex-judge and three ex-lawyers, all felons. Saadey's case was built primarily on the testimony of businessmen who testified that he took part in extortion schemes.

Philomena implicated Saadey in the extortion of two car dealers who wanted their odometer rollback case to be fixed. The jury found Saadey innocent of another attempted extortion scheme that Philomena said involved a diet-pill doctor.

Gruscinski said in a motion to increase Saadey's sentence that he didn't want Saadey's conduct to be treated as an ordinary bribery case.

The prosecutor, in his motion, said Saadey "held the keys to the back door" of the prosecutor's office and used his position not only for personal gain, but to undermine the criminal justice system in Mahoning County.

meade@vindy.com




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