FLORIDA KEYS -- Every day was a new headline, and it often still is ever since the allegations surfaced that Tom Noe illegally funneled money into the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign. They were taking a serious toll on his health, and their marriage.
News 11 anchor Jerry Anderson traveled to the Florida Keys to talk exclusively to Tom and Bernadette Noe. It was their first television interview since state and federal charges were filed against Tom. Bernadette Noe fled to Florida to the family home in the Keys to try to find some answers, some peace, and guidance.
"You guys talk about splitting up?" Jerry Anderson asked Bernadette Noe. She answered, "Did, yeah. Talked."
"But never split up?" Anderson asked.
"No, well, no, no, no," said Bernadette.
Still, the pressure cooker-style media onslaught in Toledo had led Bernie to move to get out. But as the high-profile life she'd known was collapsing around her, Bernie knew she was at a fork in the road. She began sensing a direction. "That was the moment when I could all but physically feel myself being pulled down the fork toward the Lord," said Bernadette.
Raised in the Catholic faith, Bernadette tried talking to God as she walked one day. "I said to God, 'I really need your help. I am so confused. I need to know if Tom's a bad guy or not,'" said Bernadette. She says at first, she didn't really sense anything from God, finally saying, "God, I'm not hearing you, but I'm going to keep listening through others."
Then, she says, after returning home, she received a very interesting instant message on the computer from a trusted friend and advisor. "Out of the blue, not 'How are you,' she says, 'My wisdom tells me that Tom did not act out of a bad heart,'" said Bernadette. "And I said, 'why did you say that?' and she said, 'I don't know, I felt the need to tell you that,'"
She e-mailed Tom and said "We're working this out."
Tom had fallen into a depression when the storm of allegations first blew up. He lost a lot of weight. The Noes now jokingly refer to it as the "Indictment Diet." News 11 was there for his first return to Florida since learning he'll be going to a federal prison.
On September 13th, federal judge David Katz sentenced Tom Noe to 27 months in federal prison for arranging a contribution scheme to raise money for the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign in 2004. That sentence carried with it a $136,200 fine.
Prosecutors said Noe gave $45,400 directly or indirectly to 24 friends and associates, who made the campaign contributions in their own names, allowing him to skirt the $2,000 limit on individual contributions. Noe wrote several checks just under the cap to avoid suspicion, according to prosecutors. All of the checks were written in the eight days leading up to a fundraiser in October 2003 at a downtown Columbus hotel.
Noe, a rare coin dealer, is also charged in an ill-fated $50 million coin investment that he managed for the state workers' compensation fund. The scandal led to ethics charges against Ohio Governor Bob Taft, who pleaded no contest for failing to report gifts such as golf outings.
Noe has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
After nearly a year-and-a-half of media silence, he's talking. "We wouldn't have held it together without her. It's plain and simple," said Tom Noe. "Not only our marriage but the family."
The Noe clan is tight. Telling the kids and keeping them updated were among the toughest things the Noes say they had to do. "We have a strong belief in God that obviously He has a plan," said Tom. "I'm still waiting to see what it is, but I know He's got one."
For now, Tom Noe's life is Red Cross disaster training, and cantering at church. Of course, he's also preparing for an October trial in the state's "Coingate" scandal.