Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Judge opposed dismissal of bribery charge against former Portage mayor Synder

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A judge denied Thursday two motions to dismiss a soliciting bribes charge former Portage Mayor James Snyder will be retried on, according to court records.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Theresa Springmann, in Hammond, denied a motion to dismiss the bribery charge on double jeopardy grounds and another motion to dismiss the bribery charge on supervisory power of the court. Springmann ordered a Nov. 2 conference in the case.

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Snyder’s attorneys argued that the double jeopardy standard applies in this case because brothers Robert and Steve Buha, former owners of Great Lakes Peterbilt, were granted immunity with “no-notice, mid-trial” following a grand jury testimony that took “the Court completely by surprise,” according to court records. With their testimony, according to documents filed by Snyder’s legal team, “there is a strong likelihood that Mr. Snyder would have been acquitted.”

Additionally, Snyder’s attorneys argued in the filing that the court should use its supervisory power to acquit him because the prosecutors “deprived Mr. Snyder of eyewitnesses as to what happened between him and the Buhas … much of the evidence he had expected to place before the jury.”

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On Thursday, Springmann issued an order denying the motion to dismiss the charge on double jeopardy grounds because there is no proof of misconduct in how the prosecution handled the Buha brothers’ testimony.

In arguing that the court should dismiss the charge based on supervisory power of the court, Snyder’s attorneys compared the case to a federal case where a witness was intimidated through written and verbal communication. But, Springmann ruled “the two cases are incomparable.”

Springmann ruled that Snyder’s attorneys do “not contend (prosecutors) attempted to threaten or intimidate the Buha brothers by meeting with them or sending them messages or other communications,” according to court records.

Springmann ruled that prosecutors stated that the government “does not believe that (the Buha brothers) have been truthful,” which “fall short of the obviously threatening conduct that other courts have deemed to be witness intimidation,” according to court records.

Additionally, Springmann said that the prosecutor made that statement during a sidebar “which … is a rather inefficient medium for conveying a threat to a witness,” according to court records.

Snyder declined to comment and his attorneys did not immediately return requests for comment.

Snyder, who was indicted in November 2016, was convicted of taking a $13,000 bribe in exchange for contracts to sell five garbage trucks to the city and using a shell company to hide income assets from the IRS while owing back personal and business taxes. The jury acquitted Snyder of a third count that alleged he took a $12,000 bribe to get a company on Portage’s tow list.

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