INFANTE TRIAL | Judge, attorney query prospective jurors

WARREN — Individual jury selection in the Ralph Infante public-corruption trial has begun in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

Visiting judge Patricia Cosgrove has started to call some of the 80 potential jurors into a private room with the attorneys to ask what the potential juror knows about the case.

When the judge asked how many of the 80 knew about the case, about 25 raised their hand. Those 25 will be questioned individually.

Judge Cosgrove told the 80 they will not be dismissed from the case just because they were exposed to pretrial publicity as long as they believe they can be fair to the parties in the case.

After individual questioning, the judge will begin general jury selection involving all of the remaining potential jurors being questioned as a group. Jury selection may take all day.

Infante, 63, who is in the courtroom for jury selection, faces 37 criminal charges and could get about 90 years in prison if he is convicted on all counts.

On Thursday, Judge Cosgrove, who is from Summit County, found Infante’s wife, Judy, 68, guilty after she pleaded no contest to one low-level felony related to false tax returns and one misdemeanor falsification charge.

On Thursday, special prosecutor Dan Kasaris of the Ohio Attorney General’s office said he would not be moving forward with four misdemeanor charges against Ralph Infante related to alleged gambling at the Infante’s former bar, ITAM #39 in McKinley Heights, because the Niles couple living on North Rhodes Avenue no longer owns the bar.

That leaves Ralph Infante with 37 criminal charges, including 16 of tampering with records, eight of bribery, one of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, two of theft in office, one of having an unlawful interest in a public contract, one of possessing criminal tools, seven of soliciting improper compensation and one of falsification.

Prosecutors have alleged Ralph Infante illegally received nearly $200,000 in unreported cash, income and gifts, some of it to provide people with jobs with the city.

Infante’s August 2017, indictment specifies the years he received the money were 2007 through 2014 with 2012 being the largest year at $41,099.70. Prosecutors have also suggested some crimes date back to 1992 at the beginning of Infante’s 24 years as mayor.

The Ohio Auditor’s Office, which has been the lead investigative agency in the Infante investigation, placed Niles in fiscal emergency 2014 because of deficit spending. Investigators with the auditor’s office also went to Infante’s offices, Oct. 14, 2014, seeking records as part of its audit of the city’s books.

Prosecutors said in August 2017 that investigators found records in Infante’s handwriting showing gambling profits he made from 1992 to 2015 ranged from $25 to $2,700 for events such as the Super Bowl. Total unreported gambling profit over 23 years was $59,620, prosecutors said. Some gambling was taking place at City Hall, prosecutors said.

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