Ex-Niles mayor’s quest for new trial begins
Today at the 9th District Court of Appeals, three judges will hear oral arguments in the appeal of former Niles Mayor Ralph Infante. They will issue a decision some weeks later.
Infante, 64, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in May 2018 after a jury in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court found him guilty of 22 criminal charges. They are engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, 13 counts of tampering with records and lesser counts of theft in office, having a public interest in a public contract, gambling and falsification.
Infante and his attorney argued he should get a new trial because of seven errors they believe were committed by visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove, a retired Summit County common pleas court judge, who presided over the case.
Infante said there was insufficient evidence to convict him on the most serious charge — engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity — and insufficient evidence to convict him of the many counts of tampering with records and other offenses.
Regarding the corruption charge, his attorney, David Doughten, argued there was no criminal enterprise as defined under Ohio law.
“The state’s theory here is that while the mayor of the city of Niles, Infante allowed a number of individuals, independent of each other, to commit small offenses which benefitted Infante,” Dougten stated.
“In other words … Infante acted as the wheel and all the independent acts were spokes to his wheel. The problem is, these actions, even if accurate, do not constitute an enterprise. There was no ‘association
in fact’ as charged in the indictment.”
He added, “Simply stated, the participants here did not have a common purpose. Each individual had a similar purpose, that was to better their particular situation, but that is not the same as a common purpose, which is required by the statute.”
Atty. Dan Kasaris of the Ohio Attorney General’s office, which prosecuted the case in cooperation with investigators with the Ohio Auditor’s Office and FBI, filed a document that opposed refuted Infante’s arguments, citing an 18-page accounting of items that went into the corruption conviction. It included:
Infante and his wife, Judy, failed to report $59,620 in gambling profits they earned through the bar they formerly operated on U.S. Route 422 in McKinley Heights.
Ralph Infante admitted in 2009 that he got two free tickets to the 2007 National Championship football game from local businessmen Anthony Cafaro Sr. or his son, Anthony Cafaro Jr., and did not report them as gifts.
The Ohio Auditor’s Office concluded the amount of cash deposits into the Infantes’ bank accounts from 2009 to 2014 not attributable to income sources such as Ralph Infante’s salary as mayor was $103,605. The money was not reported as income or gifts on financial disclosure forms required of government officials.
The Cafaro-operated baseball field at the Eastwood Mall complex received $60,000 to $65,000 in free water despite the issue being reported to Ralph Infante and other officials.
Ralph Infante ordered city employees to perform free work at the Eastwood Mall complex that cost the city thousands of dollars.
At a meeting in city hall attended by Niles department heads, Infante asked them what “concessions” they could give to the Cafaro Co. during the construction of the Cafaro office complex at the mall and another project. As a result, fire hydrants valued at $3,000 were provided free to the projects.