Closing arguments are set for today in the criminal case against North Canton businessman Ben Suarez. For Ohio Public Radio, WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports that the defense rested without calling the long line of state political headliners it had subpoenaed.
The flurry of subponeas issued by the defense included many of the state’s top Republican names: U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, Gov. John Kasich, Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted.
Most of them were fighting the subpoenas, but federal Judge Patricia Gaughan hadn’t yet ruled on their motions when Suarez defense team rested. So did prosecutors.
That came a few hours after Gaughan dropped two of the 10 charges against Suarez, who’s accused of steering $200,000 in donations to Mandel and Renacci through employees and other straw donors. Gaughan said there was no proof Suarez knew of a document prosecutors contended was part of his obstruction of justice.
Cleveland Marshall law professor James Wilson says such mid-trial acquittals are rare.
“In criminal law, it always comes down to intent," Wilson said. "And intent is always something you have to infer from all of the facts. And I guess she just didn’t think there were any facts to support the idea that—at least in terms of those two charges—that he was actually deliberately withholding evidence or covering up in any possible way. It’s a victory for the defendant, but he’s still got a ways to go.”
Along with the 72-year-old Suarez, federal prosecutors leveled criminal charges against Suarez’ company, Suarez Corporation Industries of North Canton. Suarez had been trying to get Ohio’s Republican politicians help to fight a multimillion consumer complaint against his company in California. He settled that suit this year for $1.8 million.