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Published: Wednesday, 6/9/2010

Ohio Supreme Court refuses to hear Noe's appeal

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - Tom Noe's hopes of getting out of prison any time soon were dashed Wednesday when the Ohio Supreme Court opted not to hear his appeal of his theft and corruption convictions.

But the court fight isn't likely to end there.

Without comment, the high court ruled against the former chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, who had argued that he didn't receive a fair trial in his home county in the wake of a scandal that had political ramifications statewide.

His state appeals now exhausted, Noe will pin his hopes on federal court.

"The denial was obviously one of two outcomes that could have happened," said his Toledo attorney, Rick Kerger. "We know what the plan has been. We planned to go to federal habeas corpus."

Noe is serving his second year of an 18-year sentence for his 2006 jury conviction on 29 charges of corruption, theft, money laundering, and tampering with records. The Toledo-based 6th District Court of Appeals upheld his convictions on Dec. 31, and Wednesday's high-court ruling leaves that decision intact.

Among other things, Noe argued that he couldn't get a fair trial because of extensive pretrial publicity. The trial court had refused to grant him a change of venue.

The Blade first reported in April, 2005 on Noe's $50 million state rare-coin investment deal, triggering a multiyear state probe that uncovered massive corruption in the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation and led to charges against more than 20 public officials and money managers.

With Noe's political connections stretching from the Governor's residence to the White House, the scandal was credited as one reason that Ohio voters swept Republicans from every statewide elected office save one a year later.

All of the justices who considered the case refused to hear the appeal based on nine of the 11 grounds Noe had raised.

The vote was 4-1 against hearing the appeal specifically on Noe's pretrial publicity argument. Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Paul Pfeifer, and Robert Cupp, all Republicans, and Chief Justice Eric Brown, the court's sole Democrat, voted "no.'' Justice Terrence O'Donnell cast the dissenting vote.

The court also voted 4-1 not to hear the case based on Noe's argument that the trial court relied on an unconstitutional law when it gave him a sentence beyond the statutory minimum. Chief Justice Brown was the dissenting vote on this argument.

Justices Maureen O'Connor and Judith Lanzinger, both of whom are on the ballot this year, did not participate in the case. Noe or his then wife, Bernadette, had contributed to the campaigns of both in the past and had served as campaign manager for Justice Lanzinger, a fellow Toledoan, in 2004.

Mr. Kerger said he wondered if the decision not to hear the appeal might have been different if district appeals court judges had been appointed to consider the case in the place of the two recused justices.

The court also refused to hear a cross appeal from the county prosecutor's office.

Noe is incarcerated at Hocking Correctional Facility in southern Ohio. He had previously completed a federal sentence in his conviction of using others to launder illegal campaign contributions to the 2004 re-election campaign of President George W. Bush.



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