TOLEDO -- Thursday is a much-anticipated day in Coingate: The Trial of Tom Noe. A key witness is expected to take the stand.
Timothy Lapointe is Noe's former partner from his Monclova Township coin business, Vintage Coins and Cards. He's also a co-defendant in this case. Noe attorneys are trying to shift some of the alleged wrongdoing onto Lapointe. But when he takes the stand today, prosecutors hope he will prove their case.
Noe, once a go-to guy for the Republican Party, has pleaded not guilty to theft, money laundering, forgery and corrupt activity charges. He is accused of stealing more than $2 million and spending it on his business and renovating his home in the Florida Keys. He faces up to 10 years in prison on the corrupt activity charge.
The scandal has become a central political issue in Ohio over the last 18 months and has contributed to trouble for Republicans who have dominated the state since 1990. Democrats hoping to capitalize on the investment scandal in the November election say Noe was selected to oversee the state investment in coins because of his political ties.
In the last three weeks, dozens of witnesses have taken the stand, including Noe's former bookkeeper, his brother-in-law, and business associates. Wednesday, it was a handwriting expert who testified Noe forged checks in other people's names. Several witnesses took the stand, viewing checks written to themselves with their signatures on them, but all said none of them had ever seen those checks before.
Noe is charged with 44 criminal charges including theft, money laundering, forgery and corrupt activity -- all stemming from that rare coin fund he managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation. He has pleaded not guilty.
Early in the trial, defense attorney William Wilkinson said Noe's contract with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation allowed him to borrow money from the investment fund or loan it to others. "You can't steal something from the owner of property if they give you permission to use it," Wilkinson said in a story first broadcast last month on WTOL.
In a different case, Noe pleaded guilty earlier this year to funneling $45,000 to Bush's re-election campaign and was sentenced last month to two years and three months in federal prison. He won't begin that sentence until after the state charges are resolved.
Investigations into the coin investments led to separate ethics charges against Gov. Bob Taft, who pleaded no contest last year to failing to report golf outings and other gifts. Now Democrats are poised to take back the governor's office and are in position to win a majority of the five statewide races, according to recent polls.
Count on News 11 to follow this case as it develops.