White-Collar Crime

Trial Starts for Law Partner Charged in $1.3M County Auditor Bribe Conspiracy

Two of William Mitchell’s former law partners, Timothy Armstrong and Bruce Zaccagnini, have taken pleas and are serving prison terms.

Prosecutors say the mastermind of an alleged bribery scheme involving a former Cuyahoga County, Ohio, auditor and the Armstrong, Mitchell, Damiani and Zaccagnini law firm was the firm’s other name partner, Louis Damiani, who died in 2006.

Now Mitchell, 63, has gone to trial in federal court in Akron concerning his alleged role in the claimed conspiracy, the Plain Dealer reports. It involved a company, V.A.S. Enterprises, that was secretly controlled by the law firm, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Arbeznik told the jury today as the trial began. In exchange for some $1.3 million in bribes, then-Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo allegedly steered some $21 million in no-bid appraisal contracts to the law firm, as prior ABAJournal.com posts detail.

Although Arbeznik contends that Mitchell knew about the scheme, his lawyer, Tom Conway, told the jury that wasn’t so. Mitchell is a former football player and a medical malpractice lawyer who “was part of the law firm,” Conway said. “He was not part of the conspiracy.”

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “2 Lawyers Charged in Alleged Government Property Valuation Scheme”

ABAJournal.com: “Lawyer Pleads in Appraisal Bribe Scheme; Prosecutors Seek $3.2M Restitution”

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