Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Former Portage mayor James Snyder faces new trial on corruption charges

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A new trial has been set for former Portage Mayor James Snyder following a lengthy legal battle that has resulted in both an acquittal and conviction on multiple corruption charges.

U.S. District Judge Theresa Springmann on Tuesday refused to dismiss two felony counts against Snyder, ruling that he may face a new trial on a bribery charge and will remain guilty of tax evasion.

Attorneys and Springman agreed Friday to set the date for Snyder’s new trial on the bribery charge for March 23, and expect it to last 10 to 12 days, according to court records.

Snyder was first charged in November 2016 by federal prosecutors with two bribery counts and one tax evasion count.

A jury heard the case between Jan. 14, 2019, and Feb. 14, 2019. Jurors ended up acquitting Snyder of one bribery count, which alleged that he corruptly arranged for the city of Portage to award public vendor contracts for towing services. However, Snyder was found guilty of a bribery count accusing him of corruptly arranging for Portage to award garbage truck purchases.

He was also convicted of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service’s collection of income taxes by falsifying documents.

On Nov. 27 U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen ruled that Snyder deserved a new trial on the garbage truck bribery charge, and upheld his conviction on the tax evasion charge.

Springmann took over the case in December and declined to upset Van Bokkelen’s ruling, citing federal case law that encourages a new judge to abide by the decision of the first judge.

Prior to his ruling, Snyder’s attorneys had pressed Van Bokkelen to overturn the convictions and find him not guilty or grant him a new trial. The defense argued there was insufficient evidence to support the guilty verdicts and that misconduct by prosecutors denied Snyder a fair trial.

Van Bokkelen said “gamesmanship” by the prosecution prevented the jury from hearing testimony from the former owners of the garbage truck dealership.

Although Van Bokkelen upheld the tax count, Snyder’s lawyers argued to Springmann the government failed to prove Snyder committed any violations still punishable under the statute of limitations, which sets the deadline for the government to file charges.

Springmann let stand Van Bokkelen’s decision last year that Snyder’s misrepresentations to the IRS were timely charged and there is enough evidence for a jury to find Snyder guilty of corruptly obstructing tax collections.

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