Noe Closing Arguments Over

Noe, from an earlier court appearance
Noe, from an earlier court appearance

TOLEDO -- It's all over but the deliberation for the jury in the Tom Noe Coingate trial.  Both prosecutors and defense attorneys delivered their closing arguments today.  They lasted longer than anyone expected -- ending around 5:00pm -- so Judge Thomas Osowik sent the jury home for the evening.

Judge Osowik will give the jury its instructions and deliberation will begin Wednesday morning at 9:00am.

Tom Noe has pleaded not guilty to 44 felonies of stealing millions from a $50 million dollar investment in rare coins that he managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.  The prosecution built its case with witnesses ranging from coin dealers, collectors, co-workers, investigators -- even Noe's brother in law.

During closing arguments today, Prosecutor John Weglian called Noe a swindler who turned his business, Vintage Coins and Collectables, into a criminal enterprise. "He was stealing," Weglian said. "The corrupt activity began the moment he got the money."

"The evidence which has been produced thus far clearly establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Noe is a swindler," said Weglian, who spoke to the jury for nearly 90 minutes.

But defense attornies say the one to blame is former Vintage Vice President Tim LaPointe.  They say it was his shady recordkeeping that fooled inspectors and bankrolled Noe's lavish lifestyle.  Attorney William Wilkinson reiterated his claim that Noe's contract with the state agency allowed him to use the money as he wanted.

Noe could "borrow money effectively from himself and determine the terms on which he would borrow. He was allowed to do that," Wilkinson said. He acknowledged that Noe didn't keep good records, possibly in violation of the contract, but Wilkinson said that wasn't an issue for the jurors to consider.

Another defense lawyer, John Mitchell, suggested the prosecution's case wasn't clear enough for the jury to return a conviction.  "The government has had their opportunity to take their best shot, and it's their obligation that they give you something that you can understand," Mitchell told jurors.

The insurance fund for injured workers gave Noe $25 million in 1998 to invest in rare coins, followed by another $25 million in 2001.  Prosecutors spent three weeks presenting evidence. Noe's defense team rested Monday without calling any witnesses.

Noe, once a go-to man for the GOP, has pleaded not guilty to charges of theft, money laundering, forgery and corrupt activity.  Common Pleas Judge Thomas Osowik earlier denied the attorneys' request to dismiss all charges against Noe.

Democrats say he got the money because of his political connections. The scandal permeated campaign advertisements and debates for state offices.  Prosecutors say Noe loaned the state's money to friends. Former employees said he borrowed some of the state's money to pay off business loans and to prop up his coin business when sales were slow.

Prosecutors have not said whether Noe is suspected of using the money to make campaign contributions to Republicans, including President Bush and Gov. Bob Taft.

Noe, in a separate case, 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.  Federal prosecutors could have sought a stiffer penalty in that case if they thought the state money had been used for the donations.

The investigation into Noe's coin investments have led to separate ethics charges against Taft, who pleaded no contest last year to failing to report golf outings and other gifts. About a dozen others, including some of Taft's aides, also were charged.

Posted by AEB