It was a smack down that no one would have predicted — least of all J.J. Cafaro. But there he was standing in front of U.S. District Court Judge John R. Adams hearing the dreaded words:
“I’m going to order detention.” In layman’s terms, “You’re going to jail. Now.”
It’s about time.
For Cafaro, shopping center magnate who’s used to getting his way in the criminal justice system, it was a surreal moment Wednesday in federal court in Akron.
He had planned to plead guilty to a relatively minor felony charge and walk free on bond until his sentencing in June after a pre-sentence investigation.
But, his arrogant disregard for the rules of the court proved to be his undoing.
Judge Adams’ disgust with Cafaro’s behavior was reflected in his comment:
“I’ve been here seven years. I can’t remember one instance where the defendant didn’t give the basic information to determine bond.”
A pretrial services officer had sought information pertaining to Cafaro’s income and value of his home and cars. Instead, she said she got only “general information.”
And that’s when the smack down took place. The judge wasn’t in any mood to listen to excuses or explanations.
It certainly was a change from when Cafaro admitted to providing an “unlawful gratuity” (a bribe?) to former Congressman James A. Traficant Jr. and to committing perjury in federal court — and not spending a single minute in prison.
Instead, he walked away with a fine and probation. The justification for that kid-glove treatment was his testimony against Traficant, who was found guilty of 10 criminal charges including racketeering, bribery and tax evasion.
Traficant spent more than seven years in the penitentiary.
Cafaro claimed that he gave $13,000 in cash and other things of value to Traficant in return for the then congressman helping him secure a federal contract for a Virginia-based company he owned.
But even after that brush with the law, Cafaro couldn’t keep his hands clean.
He now has pleaded guilty to causing a member of his daughter Capri Cafaro’s campaign staff to file a false report with the Federal Election Commission. The report was meant to cover up a $10,000 loan he gave the campaign staffer to aid Capri Cafaro’s failed U.S. congressional bid.
J.J. Cafaro has said that his daughter was in no way involved in the scam.
Capri Cafaro is the minority leader of the Ohio Senate. She represents the 32nd District.
Her father recently retired as executive vice president of the Cafaro Co., one of the nation’s leading shopping center development companies in the country. His brother, Anthony Sr., retired as president of the Youngstown-based corporation started by their father, William.
The guilty plea carries a prison sentence of a maximum of six months. Prison time is inevitable because he already is a convicted felon.
Cafaro is scheduled to appear before Judge Adams on Monday, at which time the issue of bond will be discussed.
On Thursday, his lawyers asked for an expedited bond hearing and wanted the judge to conduct it on Friday.
Judge Adams’ response to the motion can be put in these terms: Tell your client to get comfy. He’s going to be in prison until Monday.
Cafaro obviously does not want the world to know what he’s worth — hundreds of millions of dollars by most accounts.
It is clear the Cafaro name means nothing to Judge Adams.
But it does to whole lot of people in the Mahoning Valley, especially politicians who have benefitted from his largess.
In November 2002, when he was being sentenced by federal Judge Solomon Oliver for his guilty plea in the Traficant case, Cafaro produced letters of support from several individuals, including a Jesuit priest, the Rev. Thomas S. Acker, and a veteran radio personality, Pete Gabriel.
Who will step forward this time to let Judge Adams know that J.J. is a caring human being who’s simply misunderstood?