Monday, October 6, 2008

O'Malley likely not connected to FBI probe

One more thought about the Pat O'Malley case. All summer, people asked whether O'Malley might have cooperated with the FBI's investigation of Cuyahoga County government. Based on what we learned last week, I think he probably did not.

In my feature on O'Malley, published two weeks ago, I wrote: "O'Malley's plea came two months before the FBI's July raid on the offices of two political rivals, county commissioner Jimmy Dimora and auditor Frank Russo. That timing, plus the delay in charging O'Malley and the plea deal, led people in political and media circles to ask: Could O'Malley have cooperated with the Dimora-Russo investigation?"

Since then, I've seen three reasons to think O'Malley didn't help the feds.

First, the prosecutors said in a court filing that the FBI and Justice Department spent three years conducting "exhaustive forensic examinations" of the computers and discs containing the porn. They decided to focus on the obscenity charge instead of a child porn charge because it was more "readily provable." O'Malley's ex-wife had turned over the alleged child porn, while the FBI had seized some of the obscene materials directly from O'Malley's house. (See my previous post.) In other words, the case was more complicated than people thought, so the feds took their time to investigate, then accepted a plea to avoid a messy trial.

Second, O'Malley's lawyer wrote in his sentencing memo, "Local media has even wrongfully accused [O'Malley] of providing information to federal law enforcement officials regarding the recent probe into Cuyahoga County officials Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo." The judge is the audience here. If O'Malley were informing on Dimora or Russo in exchange for a lighter sentence, O'Malley's lawyer would want the sentencing judge to know!

Third, when defendants cooperate with the FBI, there is usually a hint about it at their sentencing. There was no such hint at O'Malley's hearing. The two investigations may simply be unrelated.

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