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Published: Tuesday, 7/1/2008

Tom Noe appeals, says he didn t get a fair trial

BY STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Attorneys for Tom Noe say an onslaught of negative publicity deprived the former rare-coin dealer of a chance at a fair trial nearly two years ago.

Noe s attorneys, in their appellate brief filed yesterday in Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals, said the onetime GOP insider didn t receive due justice on at least seven occasions during his 2006 trial in Lucas County stemming from charges he pilfered millions of dollars from a rare-coin fund he managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.

The case concluded in November, 2006, with a jury convicting Noe on 29 charges of corruption, theft, money laundering, and tampering with records. Judge Thomas Osowik sentenced him to 18 years in state prison and ordered him to pay millions of dollars in restitution.

Yesterday, his attorneys asked that Noe be acquitted on all 29 charges.

Noe is serving a 27-month federal sentence in central Florida after pleading guilty to charges that he made $45,000 in illegal contributions to President Bush s re-election campaign.

Following his federal time, Noe will be brought back to Ohio to serve his 18-year state sentence.

Noe s case should have been tried elsewhere because of the media onslaught against him, Noe s attorneys contended in their filing yesterday, specifically citing several reports in The Blade.

In fact, The Blade published scores of prejudicial comments by influential state and local political figures from both political parties, poisoning the pretrial atmosphere, the attorneys wrote.

In April, 2005, The Blade first reported on Noe s $50 million state investment deal, triggering a multiyear investigation that uncovered massive corruption in the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, and led to charges against more than 20 public officials and money managers, including former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft on misdemeanor ethics charges.

Noe s attorneys say not only should the trial have been moved, but that the judge repeatedly erred in his handling of the case.

Before, during and after the trial, the trial court made numerous erroneous rulings in violation of Mr. Noe s federal and state constitutional rights, Noe s attorneys wrote as they outlined the missteps.

Noe s defense team argued in yesterday s filing that prosecutors failed to prove every element of Noe s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, that the jury wasn t appropriately instructed on basic tenets of Ohio corporate law, and that Judge Osowik was unfit to hear the case because Noe, a former Lucas County Republican Party chairman, had actively campaigned against him.

Noe s defense team challenged whether Noe could be convicted of both theft and money laundering because of the nature of the crimes. Finally, Noe s attorneys said his sentence was disproportionately harsh, punishing the rare-coin dealer for exercising his right to a trial.

Noe s attorneys did not return messages yesterday seeking comment.

John Weglian, chief of the special units division of the Lucas County prosecutor s office, declined comment, saying only: Our response is going to be what we file on Sept. 30 when our response is due.

Prosecutors have until that date to file their response to the appeal. Noe s legal team will then have another opportunity to reply and then the appeals court will hear oral arguments.

Toledo attorney Jerry Phillips said Noe s attorneys face a tall order in trying to overturn his conviction and sentence.

Reversing a criminal conviction on appeal is probably one of the most difficult tasks in appealing different types of cases, Mr. Phillips said, adding that trial judges over time have learned how to avoid pitfalls.

Judges have familiarized themselves with the law and rarely do they make mistakes that will cause reversal of the case.

Noe s appeal was delayed for several months as the court waited for the completion of his trial transcript, which was more than 5,800 pages.

Contact Steve Eder at: seder@theblade.com or 419-304-1680.



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