Published January 30, 2007
One of the subplots of Benjamin Beshara's murder trial that has not received a great deal of attention it should have, given the Mahoning Valley's history is the claim by two co-defendants about Beshara's boasting of ties to the Mafia.
Indeed, the claim is detailed in court documents. Beshara's lawyer attempted to have the Mafia reference kept out of the trial. But Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Martin P. Desmond argued that the evidence was reliable because it was corroborated by a witness not involved in the murder of 61-year-old Marilyn Guthrie of Niles.
In March 2006, when Coryon Bertram and Josiah Smith implicated Beshara in the Guthrie killing, they were asked why they did not mention Beshara when they were first interviewed by p0lice in August 2005.
" ... they responded that Defendant Beshara threatened them, and claimed that he was in the Mafia and had connections in the law enforcement community that would prevent him from being prosecuted. Coryon Bertram also gave detailed accounts of two occasions in which Defendant Beshara backed up his claim to be in the Mafia," Assistant Prosecutor Desmond wrote.
"Both instances dealt with Defendant Beshara owing Bertram's stepmother money for drugs. In the first instance, when confronted about owing the money, Defendant Beshara made a telephone call and had two individuals deliver the money to Bertram's stepmother. In the second instance, Defendant Beshara gave Bertram's stepmother a vehicle as payment for the drugs.
"As corroboration, witness Rondell Lightfoot will testify that Defendant Beshara constantly made claims he was in the Mafia and carried large sums of money to support his claim."
Someone out there knows whether Beshara has ties to organized crime, or whether he was simply indulging in "Godfather"-type bluster.
Such references to the mob could be dismissed off-hand if not for the fact that the Mafia has had hooks in the criminal justice system in the Mahoning Valley for so very long.
Thus, any claims that again raise the specter of organized crime's continuing presence in this region deserve to be investigated by the FBI.