Second Church Theft Trial Starts
Smith has been charged with taking part in a kickback scheme that bilked the church for over $780,000. A former church accountant --- Aton Zgoznik --- was convicted of conspiring with Smith in the theft in a trial last fall.
All along, the defense has claimed that the payments were legal, and that the church maintained hundreds of secret accounts for the purpose of making similar payoffs to others --- a charge that church officials deny.
Cleveland Marshall Law School Dean Geoff Mearns says one of the biggest surprises of the first trial was the prosecution's decision to call a defense witness to the stand --- former Cleveland Bishop Anthony Pilla --- who denied knowledge of Smith's actions.
MEARNS: It was was clear that was going to be a defense strategy to call Bishop Pilla and to try an set-up their defense in that case, and the government took the wind out of their sails, by calling Bishop Pilla in their own case and, as a result, I don't think the defense was adequately prepared for that move.
Now, the question is, will Pilla be called back to the stand in this trial for further questioning?