Hanni's name comes up in trial

A former lawyer said he collected $20,000 just for calling his pal, an Ohio Supreme Court justice, about a case.
CLEVELAND -- Until now, Don L. Hanni Jr. -- Youngstown's best-known and most vocal attorney -- hadn't been accused of case fixing.
That all changed Tuesday in U.S. District court when James A. Philomena, Mahoning County prosecutor from 1989 through 1996, took the witness stand.
The government subpoenaed Philomena in its racketeering case against James. A. Vitullo, a former assistant prosecutor, and Russell J. Saadey Jr., a former prosecutor's investigator who is known as "Champ."
Philomena, who admitted being part of a criminal enterprise that included Vitullo and Saadey, has served about two years of a four-year federal prison term. After that, he faces another two years in a state prison on a bribery and perjury conviction.
Before Philomena's testimony, convicted attorney Stuart J. Banks testified that he paid Philomena to fix a murder case. The case involved the 1996 shooting death of a 3-year-old. Philomena reduced the murder charge against Dwayne Oliver to manslaughter.
Banks stated in FBI interviews that in December 1996, he gave Philomena $7,500 to reduce the charge against Oliver.
Saadey's lead attorney, David J. Betras, asked Philomena if he had fixed any other murder cases.
Philomena said he had, "with Hanni."
Statements to FBI: The following reflects statements Philomena made to the FBI in 1999 and 2000:
* Hanni paid Philomena $5,000 in 1994 or 1995 in the halls of the Mahoning County Courthouse. The case involved a man who shot his cousin to death because the cousin was having an affair with the man's wife. Philomena said he reduced the charge to negligent homicide and recalled going to Disney World shortly after taking the money. Philomena recalled that the homicide took place in New Springfield.
Hanni's reaction: Hanni insisted today that he never tried to fix a case with Philomena. As evidence of that, he pointed to Tuesday's testimony in which Philomena mentioned only one instance of case fixing with the former Mahoning County Democratic chairman. Hanni said if he was fixing cases there would have been many more examples.
For more than two hours, Philomena answered questions in the trial that pits him against his cousin, Vitullo, and close friend, Saadey, who is Vitullo's cousin.
Philomena talked about socializing with Saadey, saying you need long arms and must be quick to grab the check. "He's very generous and gracious."
Paler and thinner than in his days as the county's most stylish prosecutor, Philomena testified that he accepted 14 bribes from lawyers -- Banks; Lynn Sfara Bruno, now under indictment; Hanni; Lawrence J. Seidita; Jack V. Campbell -- and others during his eight years in office.
Why accept bribes? Thomas J. Gruscinski, lead prosecutor, asked why. Philomena said that's a question he's tried to answer for some time.
He gave Gruscinski several responses. He said that at one point, he felt he was entitled because of the demands on him. Being prosecutor also cost him a lucrative practice. He said greed played a part.
He said he thought he could get away with it. It had been going on since he became a lawyer in the mid-1970s.
"Bottom line? There was no good reason," Philomena said from the witness stand.
The 10-woman, two-man jury appeared to hang on his every word. Many took notes.
Gruscinski asked about campaign contributions.
Philomena grinned just slightly as he answered that contributions from lawyers were given not because they supported his campaign or good government. The money was given in the hope that if they had a case, he would reciprocate.
In fact, Philomena said, he kept a tally of lawyers who contributed to his campaigns and listed cases next to the lawyers' names. Not all the cases were fixed, because, as he pointed out, Betras' name appeared on the list.
Some cases: Philomena testified that he and Saadey attempted to extort money from Dennis P. Orr, a North Jackson doctor charged with illegally dispensing diet pills. Orr had been shopping for a lawyer, and Philomena cautioned Saadey that Orr might be wearing a device to record any talk of bribery, the former prosecutor said.
In an odometer rollback case fix, Philomena said, Saadey tried to give him a bag of money at The Upstairs Lounge in Austintown.
"I said, 'I can't walk out of here with a bag of money -- I didn't walk in with a bag,'" Philomena said, adding that he got the money from Saadey about two weeks later.
Philomena received $33,400 or $34,000, his third of the $100,000 collected from Phillip Courtney and Robert Harvey. The men once owned Courtney-Harvey Ford Mercury in Canfield.
Philomena said he didn't know who received the other third of the $100,000. "He [Saadey] never indicated, I never asked."
Gruscinski said in his opening statement that Courtney and Harvey, along with businessmen Frank Amedia and Anthony Saadey (Champ Saadey's uncle), devised a scheme to bribe Philomena and that money was paid to Champ Saadey and his uncle.
Philomena said Champ Saadey took $7,469 of the $34,000 and got a cashier's check from a bank payable to Columbiana Buick Olds Cadillac. The check paid a two-year lease on Philomena's 1994 Cadillac Eldorado.
Personal questions: Betras traded barbs with Philomena, at times getting under the former prosecutor's skin.
Betras asked about Philomena's not keeping all the oaths and vows he took, and inquired whether Philomena had cheated on his wife, for example.
"Mr. Betras, you've heard of glass houses and throwing stones?" came the reply.
Betras shot back that he was asking the questions and asked again if Philomena had cheated on his wife.
"I had an affair," Philomena answered.
When Betras asked with whom, the government objected, and Judge Kathleen M. O'Malley sustained the objection. She told Betras to move on.
"You are a convicted liar?" Betras asked.
"Yes," Philomena said.
When Betras' questions focused on Philomena's reducing DUI charges, the former prosecutor defended his overall record: "The bottom line is that there were fewer reductions in eight years on DUIs than in the history of Mahoning County."
Betras switched back to a personal question. He asked if Philomena is married and has a daughter.
Looking at Judge O'Malley, Philomena, clearly agitated, said: "I don't want to dignify these questions with answers." The judge called the lawyers to the bench for a private conference, and afterward Betras' line of questioning ceased.
Betras tried to find out the extent of Philomena's use of prescription drugs for stress -- for which he sought treatment in federal prison. Philomena said he was a "weekend warrior" who took drugs and drank on the weekends only because otherwise he wouldn't have been able to function as prosecutor.
Gruscinski's final question caused Philomena to break down and cry, losing the composure he had maintained throughout his testimony.
"How easy was it to testify here today?" Gruscinski asked.
Philomena lowered his head for several seconds and covered his eyes. His voiced quavered as he said, "Vitullo is blood, and Russell is not but might as well be. Despite what happened here today, I regard them as close personal friends."
He said he testified because he had an agreement with the government and because what happened was wrong. "We helped pollute Mahoning County, and I felt responsible to help clean it up."
He has asked to be transferred from a federal prison in Alabama to the federal facility in Elkton to be near his wife and daughter.
Banks' testimony: Banks, meanwhile, testified that he called his good friend, Asher Sweeney, a former Ohio Supreme Court Justice, to use his influence at the request of Atty. Michael Morley. Morley represented a man who had won a $1.7 million claim against Nationwide Insurance, and the insurance company appealed first to the 7th District Court of Appeals then to the high court.
Banks said he also called Justice Andrew Douglas about the case.
When Sweeney let Banks know that the Supreme Court would not hear the Nationwide appeal, Morley gave $20,000 to Banks in a paper bag, Banks said when questioned by Samuel E. Shamansky, another Saadey lawyer. Morley assumed somehow that Banks' influence had worked.
Banks admitted he gave $10,000 of the $20,000 to Youngstown Municipal Judge Patrick V. Kerrigan for future considerations.
Morley's response: Morley, a former Mahoning County Democratic chairman, said he has no idea what Banks is referring to in his testimony.
"It's definitely not true and I'm amazed to hear it," Morley said during a telephone interview from New York City. "It truly doesn't make any sense."
Banks said that in the early 1980s, long before Philomena was prosecutor, he paid to fix cases.
Banks testified that while Philomena was in office, Banks passed one $3,000 bribe to Vitullo in the men's room of The Upstairs Lounge.
Banks gave specific cases -- listing defendants' names -- he paid to have fixed that ranged from murder to DUIs. Aside from Vitullo, he said he bribed Philomena and former judges Kerrigan, Martin W. Emrich, Andrew Polovischak Jr. and Fred H. Bailey.
Banks wore a recording device for the government and even taped common pleas Judge Robert G. Lisotto, to whom he'd given Pittsburgh Steelers tickets. Banks said he gave other judges cigars.
Although Judge Lisotto, once under scrutiny, later wrote Banks a check for the tickets, the former lawyer said he didn't cash it.
Beight testimony: Gregory A. Beight of New Springfield, who is active in Columbiana politics, also testified.
Beight was responsible for keeping track of tickets at an April 1995 fund-raiser for the Columbiana County Democratic Party. He said Champ Saadey bought a $100 ticket in his name and then nine more in others' names. The last four tickets were in the name of Bruce Zoldan, owner of B.J. Alan Fireworks in Youngstown. Beight said he didn't see Zoldan at the fund-raiser.