How Dawn Pasela Helped Tony Win
I first met Dawn Pasela at a Legal Defense Fundraiser at AJ Rocco's Bar downtown. Family, friends and employees knew I was innocent and established a Legal Defense Fund to raise money for legal fees. Friends hosted a series of events to provide information about the case, locate witnesses and prepare to fight these outrageous charges. Dawn continued to attend these events and we became friends, sometimes going out after the happy hours or sometimes spending time together on purely social occasions. I didn't know that Dawn was the Office Manager for the joint federal-state mortgage fraud task force and I certainly didn't know she was wearing a wire and recording our conversations. After indictment, the government is not allowed to conduct secret interviews with a defendant without his lawyer present -- but prosecutors Mark Bennett and Dan Kasaris didn't bother to follow the law. They illegally gained insight into defense trial preparation and trial strategies. Later, Dawn was directed to contribute money towards my legal fees, which were reimbursed by prosecutors. Then, the government used her cancelled check to subpoena the legal defense fund's bank statements and used the FBI to harass fund organizers and contributors. Federal prosecutor Mark Bennett used Dawn's secret recordings and reports -- which still have not been provided to me -- to obtain an ex parte order, (that is, without notice to me or my attorney) barring me from communicating with supporters or witnesses.
After my federal conviction, I was free on bond awaiting sentencing. At that point, I received a phone call from Dawn that changed my life. She told me who she really was and she told me about what was going on inside the prosecutor's office, including the destruction of computers and the hiding of exculpatory evidence that proves my innocence. She offered to appear as a defense witness in state court and testify about how her name was repeatedly forged on chain of custody documents. Right before I was jailed, Dawn gave me evidence that was being hidden by prosecutors that I used to win the second trial. I wasn't sure if I could win a trial -- from jail and without a lawyer -- but Dawn genuinely thought I could and she gave me valuable advice about what to do and how to win.
Once federal and state prosecutors saw Dawn's name on my witness list, they faced an unprecedented disaster. One of their own law enforcement team members was fully prepared to testify under oath in open court about criminal activity and obstruction of justice inside the U.S. Attorney's Office. Prosecutors panicked. Dan Kasaris sent me an e mail threatening that Dawn would be "indicted" and "subject to prosecution" if she appeared in court. Mark Bennett threatened federal charges and dispatched the FBI to Dawn's apartment. Dawn was so afraid of these men that she hid out at her parents house, parking her car inside their garage so no one would know where she was. She then called Judge Daniel Gaul, saying she was too terrified to appear in court. The case went to the jury without Dawn's testimony. During deliberations, I was summoned to court where a visibly shaken Judge Gaul notified everyone that Dawn had passed away. Less than an hour later, I learned that I was acquitted on all 59 counts by the jury but I didn't even care. I'm so sad that my brave and beautiful friend experienced such abuse by prosecutors. And I'm devastated and haunted by Dawn's death. I'm fighting my case so I can leave jail but I'm also fighting for justice for Dawn. Please keep Dawn and her family in your thoughts and prayers, especially during this holiday season.