Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Mayor to face fewer charges

Hochbein now faces 11 counts as trial begins

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A special prosecutor on Monday dropped three of the 14 charges against Norwood Mayor Joe Hochbein to remove any indication that partisan politics played a role in his indictments.

        However,Mr. Hochbein could spend nearly 20 years in prison if convicted of the 11 charges he still faces in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

        Assistant Special Prosecutor Raymond Faller said the decision to remove the counts relating to use of city employees at the Norwood Car Show was made to eliminate the suspicion that any of the case was politically motivated.

        Mr. Hochbein, 49, a Republican, has argued city employees were used at similar events by Democrat administrations in the past.

        “Not having those (dropped) charges, I think, makes it pretty tough for them to even allege that it is politically motivated,” Mr. Faller said. “We want (our) prosecution based on the documents that exist and what he had done.”

        The car show was said to be a private function of the mayor's and resulted in more than $5,000 in unreimbursed costs to the city each of the three times, according to court documents.

        The mayor's trial on charges of theft in office and falsification resumes at 1 p.m. today with opening statements from the defense and prosecution before Judge Fred Cartolano.

        A jury of eight men and four women, with two female alternate jurors, was seated Monday during a six-hour selection process.

        Glenn Whitaker, Mr. Hochbein's attorney, declined comment on the dropped charges.

        The remaining charges, nine felonies and two misdemeanors, allege the mayor funneled more than $2,418 meant for the city of Norwood since 1996 into private accounts under his sole control. Mr. Hochbein was indicted in July.

        Mr. Hochbein also is accused of listing a $1,000 contribution from Cincinnati financier Carl Lindner, a Norwood native, on his 1998 financial report to the Hamilton County Board of Elections when no such contribution was made.

        Cincinnati attorneys David Parker and Mr. Faller were ap pointed as special prosecutor and assistant special prosecutor after county Prosecutor Mike Allen said it would be inappropriate for his office to be involved. Mr. Allen is a former Hamilton County Republican chairman and had associated with Mr. Hochbein in GOP activities.

        According to documents filed with the court, the statement that Mr. Lindner had made the contribution was intended to disguise the source of the donation and “was made ... under penalty of election falsification.”

        Other remaining charges resulting from a Hamilton County sheriff's investigation allege Mr. Hochbein opened two bank accounts listing himself as mayor and using the city's federal taxidentification number for two private functions. They are the now-defunct Mayor's Classic basketball and tennis tournament and car show.

        The mayor is alleged to have deposited various checks from Norwood businesses, made out to the city of Norwood and intended for city-sponsored events, into the accounts for his private functions.

        The trial is expected to continue through next week.


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