Federal Judge Seals Records Proving Conflicts of Interest
Tony Viola was tried twice on identical charges, proved his innocence at a second trial yet remains in jail. Attorneys at Tony Viola's first trial represented all defendants through a "joint defense agreement" Tony never signed, while simultaneously representing government witnesses and informants in the same case. Tony was accused of tricking banks into making 'no money down' mortgage loans but attorneys in the joint defense also represented bankers involved in the same transactions. These obvious conflicts prompted objections and a request for a conflict of interest inquiry before trial, which Judge Donald Nugent denied.
Federal Prosecutor Mark Bennett said, "It is the position of the United States that the conflict of interest remains," USA v. Viola, Docket # 201, p. 18. Prosecutor Dan Kasaris told Attorney Leonard Carr "there's a huge conflict" in Tony's case. Expert Richard Koblentz also concluded there was an actual conflict of interest, particularly because the joint defense was in Attorney Jay Milano's financial interests. Milano collected $15,000 for an investigation but never paid his investigator, then Milano demanded a $25,000 "short term loan" from Tony during the first trial.
Tony proved his innocence at a second trial on identical charges then alleged that Judge Nugent's failure to conduct any conflict of interest inquiry despite timely objection requires Tony's federal conviction to be vacated. Judge Nugent then quickly sealed all records concerning conflicts of interest, including affidavits about these conflicts, Docket # 110. Judge Nugent's decision to seal records is contrary to Supreme Court precedents. In Richmond Newspapers, the Court said there is a "presumption of openness" in all criminal trials. In Globe Newspaper, the Supreme Court held that records can only be sealed when the government provides a compelling justification, such as national security grounds but, in Tony's case, no justification has ever been given and records remain sealed.
Tony Viola is the only prisoner in America who proved his innocence at trial yet remains in jail. Your help spreading the word about this obvious injustice are appreciated.