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Ohio verdict coming in $100M charity fraud trial

November 14, 2013
Associated Press

CLEVELAND (AP) — Jurors will present their verdict in the Cleveland trial of a mysterious defendant charged with orchestrating a $100 million, cross-country Navy veterans charity fraud.

The jury reached its decision late Wednesday afternoon after about three hours of deliberation, but the judge delayed the announcement until Thursday morning because of trouble getting everyone back into court after-hours.

In a surprising move earlier Wednesday, the defense waived a final statement to the jury, skipping a chance to argue for an acquittal. Defense attorney Joseph Patituce said the decision was meant to avoid rehashing the case.

Jurors heard no testimony from the defendant, who changed his mind about testifying as the trial came to a close. The defense didn't call any witnesses in the five-week trial, leaving the earlier defense suggestion of a possible CIA connection unexplored.

The defendant identifies himself as Bobby Thompson, 67. But the prosecution says he is John Donald Cody, a 66-year-old Harvard-trained attorney.

He appeared disheveled in court in the trial's final days, with his shirt unbuttoned and his hair hanging across his face. He buttoned up at the judge's order Wednesday but left his hair looping down, prompting stares from jurors when they entered.

Brad Tammaro, an assistant Ohio attorney general, told jurors in a nearly two-hour closing statement that the defendant had never been Bobby Thompson. Authorities say they traced that name to a man whose identity was stolen.

The defendant was charged with looting the United States Navy Veterans Association, which he ran from Tampa, Fla. The charity fraudulently registered with the state of Ohio in 2003 and made annual renewals, the prosecutor said.

The defendant disappeared for nearly two years before being arrested last year in Portland, Ore., where investigators found fake IDs and a suitcase with $980,000.

Judge Steven Gall dismissed a single count — possession of criminal tools, or the fake IDs and documents found in Portland. Gall said there was insufficient evidence that such a crime had been committed in the court's jurisdiction.

Authorities believe the defendant defrauded donors of up to $100 million in 41 states since 2001, including $2 million in Ohio, on the guise of helping Navy veterans. A fraction of the money has been found.

The defendant had showered politicians, often Republicans, with political donations. The judge rejected a defense request to subpoena testimony from leading Ohio Republicans, including U.S. House Speaker John Boehner.

 
 

 

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