By Ed Runyan
The attorney representing former Niles Mayor Ralph Infante is asking that Infante’s trial on public corruption charges be separated from the case of former Niles Auditor Charles Nader to give Infante a fair trial.
He also is asking that his charges be dismissed because prosecutors waited 10 years longer than necessary to charge Infante, thereby allowing evidence to be “destroyed by government delay.”
Atty. John Juhasz filed a motion with visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove asking that Nader be tried separately because of indications that Nader’s allegations against Infante will come up at the trial.
The motion says Nader gave a recorded statement to law enforcement in which he alleged that Infante told Nader that Nader should pay Infante’s brother, Joe Infante, at his “old rate.”
Nader is alleged to have told Infante that Nader couldn’t do that, but the mayor demanded. Juhasz apparently is referring to allegations in court filings that Infante rehired his brother, Joseph Infante, after his brother had retired.
Prosecutors called that having an unlawful interest in a public contract because a public official is prohibited from making decisions related to government matters that financially benefit members of their family.
Court documents also accuse Infante, 61, of accepting bribes, receiving inappropriate gifts, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with records and illegal gambling, as detailed in a 41-count indictment.
He is set to go to trial Dec. 11 in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court, along with Nader and Infante’s wife, Judy.
Nader, 64, is charged with nine counts, including theft in office, felony tampering with records and theft in office.
The problem with Infante and Nader being tried together is that the allegations Nader made in the interview could be presented at trial, but Nader could refuse to testify, the filing says.
If that happened, jurors might hear allegations about Infante without Infante having the right to cross-examine witnesses as provided in the Confrontation Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Juhasz cited a 1965 case in which a co-defendant was placed on the witness stand but “asserted his privilege against self-incrimination.” The prosecutor “in essence read [the witness’s] entire confession to the jury,” and it implicated his co-defendant as well as himself.
If Infante is unable to confront Nader and his allegations, “How can it be said that such a trial is fair or that justice has been administered without denial?” Juhasz said.
The reasons why defendants are tried together like this is for convenience and to save money, the filing says.
“The inconvenience, annoyance and expense of having two trials pales in comparison to the need to assure vindication of the defendant’s constitutional liberties,” the filing says.
Another motion asks Judge Cosgrove to dismiss the charges against Infante on the grounds that prosecutors failed through laziness to file the charges against Infante 10 years ago.
That delay has hampered Infante’s ability to gather bank records and other evidence to defend himself, and it has “destroyed memories of the defendant and other potential witnesses,” the filing says.
Some of the charges against infante date back to around 1992, when Infante first became Niles mayor. He held the job 24 years, until the end of 2016.
The filing does not give any supporting evidence of the government’s having been able to charge Infante 10 years ago.
“How can one effectively defend life and liberty when the tools for doing so have been destroyed by government delay as surely as if the government burned the documents itself?” the filing asks.
Dan Kasaris, an assistant attorney general prosecuting the case, has not yet responded to the motions.