Former State Official Convicted Of Taking Kickbacks
CLEVELAND (AP) _ The former director of Ohio Youth Services was found guilty Friday of extorting thousands of dollars in kickbacks from contractors hired by the state.
James E. Rogers was found guilty of all five charges of taking kickbacks totaling $11,500 from three construction contractors hired to do repair work at the state’s Cuyahoga Hills Boys School in suburban Cleveland in 1983 and 1984.
Rogers, who was appointed by Gov. Richard Celeste, held the $54,000-a-year state youth services post from January 1983 until he was ousted in April 1985. Youth Services operates detention homes for juvenile offenders.
The jury returned the verdict after deliberating less than four hours. After the verdict, Rogers said refused comment.
The federal charges are violations of the Hobbs Act, and each carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The jury also found Rogers’ co-defendant, Charles Vaughn, guilty of two counts of extorting $450 from one of the contractors. Vaughn was assistant superintendent of the boys school.
U.S. District Judge John M. Manos delayed sentencing pending a pre-sentence probation report. He allowed Rogers and Vaughn to remain free on bond. Defense attorneys said appeals were likely.
Rogers did not testify during the five-day trial and his attorney, R.J. Stidham, did not present any witnesses or evidence. In closing arguments Friday, Stidham said the government had failed to prove its charge.
Stidham attacked the testimony of the three contractors, saying they had lied in order to protect themselves from prosecution. ″Each of these three men had something to lose, and that was prosecution,″ Stidham said.
The contractors were granted immunity from federal prosecution in return for their testimony. Two, however, face state charges in other cases allegedly involving Rogers.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John M. Siegel said there was ″abundant″ evidence that Rogers had abused his position as a public official to get kickbacks from the contractors.
″How likely is it that three different people would come in and testify about making kickback payments and all three be lying?″ Siegel asked the jury.
In addition to the five federal charges, Rogers is charged with 72 state counts stemming from the alleged theft of some $300,000 from the East Cleveland Public Library and an alleged ″ghost″ employee scheme in the Youth Services Department. Rogers was library director from 1977 to 1983.
The contractors who testified against Rogers were Thomas W. McGinley, president of McGinley & Sons Inc. of Eastlake; James C. Lewis, owner of the defunct Cuyahoga Piping and Sheet Metal Inc. of East Cleveland; and Robert Johnson, owner of B.J. Construction Co. of East Cleveland.
McGinley said he gave Rogers kickbacks totally $4,500 and Lewis said he paid Rogers $2,000. Johnson testified that he paid $3,000 to Rogers through Lewis, and also gave Rogers a $2,000 ″loan.″