Infante trial bogs down in details about signatures


WARREN

For a trial about public corruption, the case involving former Niles mayor Ralph Infante this morning in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court has had deadly dull periods.

Infante, 63, faces 41 criminal charges accusing him of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, including allegations of bribery, illegal gambling and tampering with records, during his 24 years as Niles mayor ending in 2015.

On Monday afternoon, it was an hour-long set of questions to former Trumbull County Engineer David DeChristofaro about scores of emails between he and Infante relating to DeChristofaro's 2007 campaign for county engineer.

This morning, it was previously taped testimony from Denise Danielson, who formerly worked for Infante and his wife, Judy, at their former bar, the ITAM No. 39 in McKinley Heights.

Like the DeChristofaro questioning, the Danielson testimony was mind-numbing because of the repetition: She was asked about scores of exhibits related to block pools that she said she helped run at the bar.

Block pools are a form of gambling that involves players picking a spot in a block and paying up to $300 to have a chance that their block will be the winner of a prize, such as cash. The block pools Danielson testified about were related to the National Football League and the Super Bowl.

She testified that the $300 block pool was done every year before the Super Bowl, and each player was entitled to attend a Super Bowl party, apparently held at DiLucia's banquet hall in Warren, that included a meal, drinks and prizes.

She testified for at least an hour as Leigh Bayer, assistant Ohio attorney general, asked her to look at the handwriting on the block pool paperwork and identify whose handwriting was on each one. Likewise she was asked about the handwriting on envelopes apparently used to pay the winners of the block pools.

In most cases, Danielson testified that part or all of the handwriting on the front pages of the pools "appears to be Ralph Infante's," that some of the handwriting is hers and she didn't know for sure who the handwriting belonged to on the backs of the sheets.

Some of the handwriting on the envelopes was Infante's also, she said.

It's not known why her testimony took place on video rather than in person. Testimony resumes after lunch today with Cara Yoder, a forensic audit manager for the Ohio Auditor's Office, who was testifying before lunch about her analysis of bank records belonging to the ITAM and Ralph and Judy Infante's private bank account.

Ralph Infante, 63, faces 41 criminal charges accusing him of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, including allegations of bribery, illegal gambling and tampering with records, during his 24 years as Niles mayor ending in 2015.

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