An Ohio politician who was ensnared in an FBI “sting” desires his two corruption-related convictions thrown out—a problem that must prevail, says a authorized scholar who has adopted the case carefully.
Attorneys for Alexander “P.G.” Sittenfeld, a former Cincinnati metropolis councilman who was convicted of bribery and tried extortion this summer season, filed motions for acquittal and a brand new trial on Sept. 30 within the U.S. District Court docket in Cincinnati.
Whereas such post-trial motions are frequent, they not often succeed. However Ken Katkin, a professor of regulation at Northern Kentucky College close to Cincinnati, opined that Sittenfeld’s most important argument is legitimate.
“I don’t suppose there was any crime right here in any respect,” Katkin instructed The Epoch Instances, predicting that Sittenfeld will ultimately win a reversal. He thinks the prosecution of Sittenfeld was an “overreach,” ensuing from the FBI’s making corruption circumstances a high precedence.
Federal prosecutors didn’t instantly reply to a reporter’s emails requesting remark.
Controversies Adopted Verdict
The most recent actions within the case got here days after a federal appeals court docket refused to permit Sittenfeld’s legal professionals to dig into the cellphone of “Juror X,” who had repeatedly posted on Fb about her jury expertise throughout Sittenfeld’s trial.
After questioning Juror X and three different jurors, judges dominated they discovered no proof that her actions tainted the decision, so no additional invasion of her privateness was warranted.
Though jurors convicted Sittenfeld on two federal prices in July, they acquitted him of 4 related counts—an indication of the jury’s “apparent confusion” as a result of the allegations associated to the identical patterns of conduct, his attorneys wrote.
Occasions resulting in Sittenfeld’s prosecution started in 2018. Undercover FBI brokers, posing as would-be real-estate builders, approached Sittenfeld and started discussing a mission to redevelop a blighted space. They secretly recorded their conversations and in addition labored with an precise developer, who served as an informant.
The brokers tried to “bait” Sittenfeld into violating campaign-finance legal guidelines, his legal professionals wrote. However Sittenfeld “repeatedly declined non-compliant marketing campaign contributions,” together with money, cash orders, and journeys to Miami, Las Vegas, and Nashville.
Nevertheless, Sittenfeld did pledge to assist the mission that the faux builders, referred to as “Rob,” “Vinny,” and “Brian,” described. And the boys ultimately gave Sittenfeld a complete of $40,000, authorities stated. The funds went to Sittenfeld’s political motion committee.
If that sample of conduct constitutes bribery, “it signifies that considerably all marketing campaign fundraising on this nation” would match that definition, Katkin stated.
However that can’t be so, in keeping with three U.S. Supreme Court docket circumstances, Katkin stated. To violate federal corruption legal guidelines, an official should make an “specific” promise to take a particular motion, contingent upon fee or contributions, the court docket has dominated, Katkin stated.
Katkin, who attended Sittenfeld’s trial day by day, stated these situations weren’t met in Sittenfeld’s case. And since the mission proposal was phony, there was by no means any vote or official motion taken.
Incorrect Jury Directions?
Katkin thinks U.S. District Choose Douglas Cole erred when he, in essence, instructed jurors that Sittenfeld violated the regulation if he accepted funds from “builders” who may benefit from that “a way, by some means.”
Nevertheless, Katkin thinks it’s unlikely that Cole will rule that he was mistaken. Subsequently, Katkin stated, Sittenfeld will most likely must enchantment to the next court docket to rule on whether or not the jury directions conflicted with the U.S. Supreme Court docket’s rulings in corruption circumstances.
At age 27, Sittenfeld had turn into town’s youngest-ever councilman; he took workplace in 2011 and served till 2020, when he was suspended within the wake of his indictment.
Sittenfeld’s supporters, decrying “false and unjust allegations” in opposition to him, established a webpage referred to as “Buddies of PG Authorized Help Effort.” They wrote: “We’ve absolute religion in PG’s character, his honesty, his ethics, his dedication to public service, and his love of Cincinnati, which he has served with excellence for a decade.”
Sittenfeld was one among three Cincinnati council members to face corruption prices in separate scandals in 2020.
Former councilwoman Tamaya Dennard, who pleaded responsible to taking $15,000 in bribes, was just lately launched from jail and has been working for a nonprofit that helps discover employment for ex-convicts, in keeping with The Cincinnati Enquirer.
No trial date has been set for an additional former Cincinnati councilman, Jeff Pastor.