Criminal Justice

Former judge's bribery conviction affirmed by 6th Circuit

A federal appeals court affirmed a more than five-year prison sentence for a former Cleveland judge who fixed foreclosure cases with improper rulings requested by a local politico who had helped him get the judgeship.

Writing for the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Jeffrey Sutton hammered at the seriousness of the matter when addressing former Cuyahoga County Common Pleas court judge Steven Terry’s argument on appeal that the definition of a bribe is different when public officials are concerned.

“Bribery in this setting has long been taken seriously,” Judge Sutton wrote in the unanimous panel decision (PDF), citing the historian Herodotus’ description of how bribe-taking judges in ancient Persia were flayed alive and their skin used to make chairs for their successors. “Punishment for the offense today is less severe, but the prohibition remains.”

When then-judge Terry was approached by his political benefactor, former county auditor Frank Russo, to rule against a bank’s summary judgment motions in two foreclosure cases, the FBI already was investigating Russo and recording his phone calls—including those with Terry, which the jury heard. Terry is serving a 63-month sentence. Russo testified that he had as many as 10 judges in his pocket, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last year. Russo was ultimately sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison. Terry was the second judge convicted in a wide-ranging corruption investigation.

Hat tip: How Appealing.

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