CLEVELAND: Jurors deliberated about six hours Friday without reaching verdicts in the case of a North Canton businessman accused of violating federal campaign finance laws.
The jury gathered their belongings and walked stone-faced from the U.S. District courthouse at about 4 p.m. It was initially unclear whether the panel was recessing for the weekend, or taking a short break from deciding the guilt or innocence of multi-millionaire Ben Suarez.
After about 30 minutes of uncertainty, a staffer for Judge Patricia Gaughan notified defense lawyers and the media that the jury was indeed done for the day.
Jurors are not being sequestered. They are to resume their deliberations Monday morning.
Suarez, 72, was not seen in the courthouse all day. He, his family and other supporters were said to be staying at a downtown hotel suite to await the verdict.
Defense attorneys, Brian Pierce, Mark Schamel and Ian Friedman all declined comment Friday as they left the courthouse.
Jurors are considering eight criminal counts against Suarez stemming from his efforts in 2011 to raise about $200,000 for the failed U.S. Senate campaign of Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and successful re-election campaign of U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci.
Federal prosecutors contend Suarez intended to circumvent campaign finance laws by creating “straw donors” from a group of highest-paid executives at SCI in North Canton. They say the group gave $5,000 donations with the knowledge that the company would reimburse them.
Suarez contends the workers gave voluntarily and that they were given advances on their regular profit sharing bonuses to cover the costs. He has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Suarez made the payments in an effort to garner the politicians’ influence and intervention in a costly litigation being waged against his company by California state attorneys.
After the contributions were exposed by the Toledo Blade in August 2011, prosecutors say Suarez went into cover-up mode and obstructed FBI investigators. The politicians eventually returned the money.
Suarez is accused of conspiring to violate campaign finance laws and obstructing the investigation. Earlier this week, Gaughan dismissed two counts of obstruction. SCI is accused of one campaign violation.
Michael Giorgio, SCI’s former chief financial officer, accepted a plea deal from prosecutors in exchange for his testimony against Suarez.