Monday, December 10, 2012

Last Man Standing: My interview with Bill Mason

Just before Bill Mason left the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office this fall, he and I sat down for a final interview.  It got tense.

Others had already asked Mason why he didn't catch Jimmy Dimora or Frank Russo in the act of pocketing bribes and exploiting their office.  So I drilled deeper.  I asked about the times Mason's name came up at the Dimora trial, the wrongdoing ex-sheriff Gerald McFaul carried out in the Justice Center (where Mason also had his office), and Mason's longstanding alliance and friendship with Pat O'Malley, the former county recorder who served federal prison time on an obscenity conviction.

Mason, I discovered, remains loyal to O'Malley even today. "I'm a pretty trustworthy and loyal guy," he said. "Period." Mason said he didn't know that sheriff's deputies were illegally selling tickets to McFaul's clambake fundraisers in the Justice Center. And he denied any involvement with Frank Russo's successful efforts to push J. Kevin Kelley out of the 2003 Parma mayor's race.

The interview ranged across Mason's 14 years in office and touched on his dual reputation as a tough law-and-order prosecutor and shrewd political insider.  We talked about Mason's aggressive pursuit of the death penalty, his work fighting mortgage fraud and child porn, and his memories of the 2000 Sam Sheppard case.  As the spotlight turns to his successor, Tim McGinty, my last talk with Mason provides a look at the state of the prosecutor's office during a time of transition.

You can read my interview with Mason, "Last Man Standing," here and in the December issue of Cleveland Magazine.

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