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State Supreme Court tosses Ralph Infante appeal

Ex-Niles mayor claimed errors made in application of Ohio’s RICO?statute

The Ohio Supreme Court has thrown out the appeal of former Niles Mayor Ralph Infante, who was convicted in 2018 on corruption charges.

In April, Infante’s attorney, David Doughton, filed a notice of appeal and a 19-page memorandum, charging an appeals court erred in not overturning the conviction.

Doughton could not be reached for comment Friday.

Daniel Kasaris, assistant attorney general who was lead prosecutor in Infante’s trial, referred all questions to Steve Irwin, senior public information officer-communications to Attorney General Dave Yost, who said his office was pleased with the decision. He said Infante has no further recourse in the state court system.

A visiting panel of appellate judges in March affirmed Infante’s convictions and 10-year prison sentence. The panel from the Akron-based 9th District Court of Appeals rejected each of the seven errors the attorney for Infante cited in his appeal.

Doughton’s appeal memo cited two “major” problems with the appeals court’s decision, including the way the state’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law was applied in this case.

“First, the single-person enterprise (part of the appellate decision) is an entirely different theory than had been presented to the grand jury or presented at trial,” Doughton wrote, noting this violates the right of a defendant to be tried on the same factual basis that was presented to the grand jury.

Doughton also points to Ohio case law that shows a chain or series of unrelated criminal events over time does not violate the state’s RICO statute.

Infante, now 65, was sentenced to prison in May 2018 after a jury in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court found him guilty of 22 criminal charges. Prosecutors at trial said his offenses took place throughout Infante’s 24 years as mayor, ending in 2015.

The former mayor was found guilty of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, 13 counts of tampering with evidence and lesser counts of theft in office, having an unlawful interest in a public contract, gambling and falsification. He is serving his time at the Lorain Correctional Institution.

Doughton’s filing also took issue with the instruction to the jury during Infante’s trial, which he wrote “led to misuse and confusion.” He said the jury was presented with a number of offenses, but was not provided with a special verdict form or told to determine which charges were “predicate offenses” to the RICO charge.

The jury found Infante innocent of a number of offenses that were presented for that purpose.

Doughton wanted the high court to decide several issues related to the RICO law, including whether a person may be indicted on an “association-in-fact” enterprise and be convicted of violating the single-person aspect of the law.

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