Ralph Infante appeal to be heard in Akron

WARREN — When attorneys for Ralph Infante argue their appeal for the former mayor of Niles, who was convicted last year in a public corruption case, they will do so in Akron instead of Warren.

Infante, serving a 10-year sentence in the Lorain Correctional Institution, was found guilty of 13 counts of tampering with records, two counts of gambling, two counts of operating a gambling house, two counts of theft in office and one count each of unlawful interest in a public contract, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and falsification.

He was found not guilty on three additional tampering with records charges, including one dealing with an Ohio Ethics Board disclosure form and the filing of his 2012 federal income tax form. Infante was found not guilty of three counts of bribery, as well as additional counts dealing with allegations he used his position to get jobs for city workers.

Visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove presided over the case, and said there was “overwhelming evidence” against Infante.

Although the appeal of the conviction was filed in the 11th District Court of Appeals in Warren by Cleveland defense attorney David Doughten, the case will be heard before judges in the 9th District Court of Appeals in Akron.

“The entire 11th District recused itself and the chief justice appointed another group of appellate judges to hear the appeal,” said Dave O’Neil, senior public information officer for the Ohio Attorney General. A special prosecutor and the visiting judge prosecuted and oversaw the case because of Infante’s long ties to the area.

Doughten claims the conviction should be overturned and Infante should be granted a new trial. In a 35-page document, Doughten claims the trial court erred seven times.

Some of Doughten’s assignments of error include insufficient evidence to convict Infante on the charge of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity; insufficient evidence to convict him of tampering with records; the court denied Infante due process by allowing “improper lay opinion” as testimony; the state lacked jurisdiction to try Infante for tampering with federal records; and the court should have allowed offenses used to convict him for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity to be merged.

Doughten claims there wasn’t enough evidence to establish Infante ran a criminal enterprise “designed to benefit only himself,” the appeal states.

Special prosecutor Daniel Kasaris argued in documents in January the appeals court should uphold Infante’s conviction. The proceedings and sentencing of Infante is based on well-established law, plenty of evidence and the state did have jurisdictional rights to pursue the charges against him. Kasaris cites numerous precedent-setting cases in his defense of the conviction and sentencing, according to his response.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for noon April 25, at the 9th District Court of Appeals, 121 S. Main St., 2nd floor, Akron.