Court Examines Prosecutor's Use of Illegal Recordings to Obtain Defense Trial Strategies
Following Tony Viola's federal and state indictments, and his refusal to plead guilty under any circumstances, federal prosecutor Mark Bennett and state prosecutor Dan Kasaris ordered their 23 year old Office Manager, Dawn Pasela, to attend a happy hour at A.J. Rocco's in Downtown Cleveland. At this event, sponsored by Tony's friends and colleagues, Dawn told Tony she was a graduate student studying criminal defense then offered to help Tony's defense team. In order to gain Tony's trust, Dawn was given money by prosecutors to donate towards his legal fees and provided Tony with helpful documents that supported his defense. Over the next 24 months, Dawn recorded a series of conversations with Tony, spoke with Tony's attorney about potential defense witnesses, spent time at Tony's real estate office and attended purely social gatherings.
After the jury verdict in federal court, but before sentencing, and before his second trial, Dawn told Tony what had been going on and provided evidence prosecutors suppressed before the first trial. She also offered to testify about government misconduct as a defense witness. The evidence Dawn gave Tony proved his innocence at the second trial but, when prosecutors Kasaris and Bennett saw Dawn's name on Tony's witness list, they told her to "leave town" or face "federal prison" and "indictment" if she appeared in court. Shortly after her scheduled testimony, Dawn was found dead in her apartment. No evidentiary hearing or inquiry into her death have ever taken place -- until now. The government's actions in Tony's case, including its failure to produce the voice recordings Dawn made, are key issues in Viola v. Department of Justice, Case # 18-2573, 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
"Dawn Pasela is the most extraordinary individual I've ever known," said Tony Viola. "My friends adored her and everyone admired her courage and willingness to do the right thing in my case. I'm forever grateful to her for her help and I'm still amazed that I was friends with such a wonderful person. Prosecutors Mark Bennett, Dan Kasaris and Detective Arvin Clar engaged in witness intimidation and obstruction of justice throughout my case. Our fight will not cease until these individuals are brought to justice."
Thank you for reading our blog post!