Politics

In Cleveland, $100M charity fraud trial nears end

CLEVELAND (AP) — Attorneys in the Cleveland trial over an alleged $100 million, cross-country veterans charity fraud were to present closing arguments, a day after the mysterious defendant changed his mind and decided against testifying.

Jurors will get the case Wednesday after final statements. Some of those jurors appeared surprised Tuesday when the defense rested its case without calling any witnesses, including the defendant. He identifies himself as 67-year-old Bobby Thompson, but authorities identify him as Harvard-trained attorney John Donald Cody.

The former fugitive wanted to tell jurors his side of the story but decided against testifying because he was concerned about his mental state if he faced aggressive cross-examination by prosecutors, his attorney said.

The five-week trial drew to a close Tuesday with the defendant walking slowly into the courtroom, his shirt unbuttoned to the waist, his hair disheveled and his long, baggy pants bunched around his ankles.

The judge suggested a break to allow him to clean up, and he did so, returning with a fresh shirt and hair combed. His attorney, Joseph Patituce, said during a break in the trial that the defendant bloodied himself last week while pounding his head against the wall in a holding cell, with the noise audible in the adjacent courtroom. The judge said the defendant was checked by the jail medical staff.

He is charged with looting the United States Navy Veterans Association charity that he ran in Tampa, Fla. The charges include racketeering, money laundering, theft and identity theft. Authorities believe he defrauded donors of up to $100 million in 41 states since 2001, including $2 million in Ohio, on the guise of helping Navy veterans. A fraction of the money has been found.

The defendant showered politicians, often Republicans, with political donations. The judge rejected a defense request to subpoena testimony from leading Ohio Republicans, including U.S. House Speaker John Boehner.

The defendant was indicted in 2010 and disappeared for nearly two years before being arrested last year in Portland, Ore., where investigators found fake IDs and a suitcase with $980,000 in cash. Authorities said they traced the name Bobby Thompson to a man who wasn't connected to the charity case and had his identity stolen.

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