Thursday, September 25, 2003

Decision revives Butler political scandal

Ohio high court says reversal of Conese's conviction may not be final word

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - In an unusual move, the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to reconsider the reversal of a conviction in a Butler County political fund-raising scandal.

The court's decision, released Wednesday, is the latest action in a three-year saga involving Mark Conese. The Ohio secretary of state ousted Conese from the Butler elections board amid allegations that he tried to coerce a contribution to the Democratic Party from a board employee during a tape-recorded March 2000 conversation.

A Butler County jury later found Conese guilty of soliciting improper compensation, a misdemeanor. But the Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals reversed that decision, saying that because the contribution was never made, no coercion occurred.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear Prosecutor Robin Piper's argument that there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction based on Conese telling the employee he could be fired if he didn't increase his contribution.

Oral arguments are expected in several months.

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