Jury selection continues in former Niles mayor corruption trial

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Jury selection in the Ralph Infante public-corruption trial will resume Tuesday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

The individual questioning of potential jurors continued into late afternoon Monday.

Infante, 63, who sat through the questioning of potential jurors, faces 37 criminal charges and could get about 90 years in prison if he is convicted on all counts.

His charges are 16 counts 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.

Visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove announced Monday morning that she and the attorneys for the defense and prosecution would individually question 25 potential jurors familiar with news coverage of the case. They would be interviewed in a private area away from the courtroom.

The questioning is designed to ensure that jurors who received news coverage of the case are able to decide the case based only on evidence they hear from testimony — and not from news coverage.

Several of those 25 were dismissed from the case, but there are still about 70 potential jurors available to participate in general jury selection starting at 9 a.m. That questioning will be held in the courtroom.

Prosecutors allege 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 the Niles mayor’s office while Infante was still mayor Oct. 14, 2014, seeking records as part of its audit of the city’s books.

Investigators seized other records in later searches.

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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