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Published: Friday, 5/12/2006

Federal judge sets date for Noe plea change


A federal judge in Toledo has set a date for Tom Noe to change his not-guilty plea in his campaign finance criminal case.

U.S. District Judge David Katz this morning scheduled a hearing at 3 p.m. May 31.

On Wednesday, Mr. Noe indicated he wanted to change his not-guilty plea on federal charges that he funneled more than $45,000 into the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign in 2003. Mr. Noe was only allowed to contribute $2,000 to the campaign.

Mr. Noe's attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment this morning.

It is expected that Mr. Noe will plead either guilty or no contest to one or more of the three charges. Federal sentencing guidelines allow for reduced sentences if the suspect accepts responsibility for the charges. A greater reduction looms if the suspect cooperates in other investigations.

The charges carry a maximum 15 years in prison and a nearly $1 million fine.

Proseuctors allege that Mr. Noe funneled the money into the Bush campaign through 24 other people - "conduits" to whom he gave money so that they would attend a $2,000-a-plate fund-raiser in Columbus for President Bush.

There has been no indication that a plea in the federal case will have any bearing on the 53 felony charges Mr. Noe faces in Lucas County related to his alleged theft or laundering of more than $3 million from two rare-coin funds he operated on behalf of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation. Mr. Noe has pleaded not guilty to all of those charges. An Aug. 29 trial date has been set.

A federal grand jury in Cleveland is hearing testimony and reviewing evidence about broader problems within the investment department of the bureau.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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