WHAT'S the first thing that comes to mind after learning that Tom Noe's attorneys want a face-to-face meeting with Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates? For us it's the old TV game show, Let's Make a Deal.
But on behalf of the citizens of Ohio, we're here to remind Prosecutor Bates that no deal of any kind should be contemplated with a man who can't account for as much as $13 million in taxpayer money, a man who is already under federal indictment alleging that he illegally laundered more than $45,000 into the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, and a man the Ohio attorney general has accused in a civil action of stealing the state's money.
Ms. Bates said she was contacted by Mr. Noe's lawyers about a meeting next week and agreed to the request. In her words, it's just a "conversation among lawyers." Her top assistant prosecutor, John Weglian, cites a simple agenda: "We're just going to discuss stuff."
It's that "stuff" that gives us pause.
If it includes discussion of some sort of arrangement to avoid indictments or jail time, the prosecutor's office should understand that Americans have had it with lenient treatment of those who would abuse the public trust.
Angered by scandals at Enron and WorldCom and maddeningly frequent revelations of unethical and allegedly illegal conduct in high places by the likes of Tom DeLay and Duke Cunningham, most Ohioans are in no mood to cut Tom Noe any slack.
A truly staggering amount of public money is missing, the losses have been acknowledged, and the central figure in the matter is a man whose blind ambition to be a national political power broker has put him in this predicament.
Just as the federal money-laundering case against Mr. Noe should proceed to a legal conclusion in court, so should the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office aggressively pursue full prosecution in connection with Coingate, no matter where it leads.
Tom Noe already got one good deal from the state of Ohio - $50 million in public money. He shouldn't be allowed to walk away with yet another.
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