SHARI LEWIS Enlarge
COLUMBUS - At least two Ohio Supreme Court justices will sit out a decision as to whether former Toledo-area coin dealer and influential Republican fund-raiser Tom Noe can appeal his theft convictions.
Neither side in the case - Noe nor the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office - has asked Republican justices whose campaigns were once supported by Noe to step aside to avoid potential conflicts of interest. But Justices Maureen O'Connor and Judith Lanzinger, both on this year's ballot, have recused themselves. They offered no reasoning, but both were financially supported by Noe or his then-wife, Bernadette, in prior elections.
The link is more direct for Justice Lanzinger of Toledo, for whom Noe served as campaign manager in 2004. It remains to be seen whether other justices will join them in stepping aside.
Noe, a former chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, hopes for a chance to argue before the court that he didn't receive a fair trial in 2006 when convicted of theft and corruption charges for stealing from a rare-coin investment fund he managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation. The convictions were upheld in December by the Toledo-based 6th District Court of Appeals.
He's serving an 18-year prison sentence at Hocking Correctional Facility in Nelsonville after serving nearly two years in a federal prison in Florida for using conduits to launder contributions to President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.
In April, 2005, The Blade first reported on Noe's $50 million state investment deal, triggering a multiyear probe that uncovered BWC corruption and led to charges against more than 20 public officials and money managers.
Later that year, five of the court's seven justices recused themselves in a related case with less of a direct Noe link. That case involved successful litigation by The Blade and others to force the state to release uncensored copies of the inventory of the coin investment fund that ultimately landed Noe behind bars.
At that time, Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and Justices Lanzinger, O'Connor, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, and Terrence O'Donnell took themselves off the records case. All are Republicans who had received a combined $23,510 in campaign help from one or both of the Noes and are still on today's court that must decide whether to hear Noe's direct criminal appeal.
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