Yale University Law School Submits Pro Bono Legal Brief About Suppressed Evidence in Tony Viola’s Criminal Cases

  • FBI and Justice Department admit making false statements about evidence, blame former prosecutor Mark Bennett for failing to produce records
  • Court orders government to explain relocation of records and tapes to the Task Force location, failure to disclose that evidence
  • Prosecutors invasion of defense trial preparation, illegal voice recordings made by Task Force Office Manager Dawn Pasela at issue
  • Court orders oral arguments and considers Referring Misconduct by Prosecutors Mark Bennett and Dan Kasaris for Criminal Investigation


CLEVELAND, OHIO – April 10, 2023 – FreeTonyViola.com announced today that The Yale Law School Appellate Clinic and the Law Firm of Wiggin and Dana submitted a Pro Bono legal brief in litigation concerning missing evidence, voice recordings made by Dawn Pasela and documents shifted from the US Attorney’s Office in Cleveland to a multi-jurisdictional Task Force location before criminal trials, Viola v. Department of Justice, et. al., case number 22-2186, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 

Tony Viola was tried twice on identical charges by a federally funded Mortgage Fraud Task Force on allegations he duped banks, including JP Morgan Chase, into making 'no money down' mortgage loans.  Following a conviction in federal court, Tony proved his innocence at a second trial in state court, on identical charges, prosecuted by the same prosecution team, using evidence prosecutors said didn't exist, but that was given to Tony by the Task Force's Office Manager, Dawn Pasela.  Ms. Pasela offered to testify about prosecutorial misconduct, but was found dead in her apartment shortly after her scheduled testimony, but no investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death has ever taken place.

This litigation was initiated in 2015 to obtain proof that federal prosecutors possessed exculpatory evidence before Tony’s first trial, shifted those materials to a federally funded and staffed Task Force location, then claimed that the government was not obligated to search for records it placed there.  The record in this case establishes that the FBI repeatedly forwarded federal evidence to the Task Force, and that the Task Force was federally funded and staffed by multiple federal agencies.  Because the government’s own documents contradicted the government’s statements in its court pleadings, The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected the Justice Department's contention that evidence relocated to a Federal-State Task Force is not subject to disclosure by the government. 

In 2022, Task Force Chairman Donald Cleland stated under oath that he directed Ms. Pasela to remove hard drives from the Task Force for storage at her apartment.  These hard drives, containing evidence in over 1,000 criminal cases, later went missing, according to Cleland. Also, in 2022, the Justice Department blamed former federal prosecutor Mark Bennett for false statements about evidence.  Bennett was fired by the Justice Department and is currently undergoing disbarment proceedings, Disciplinary Counsel v, Bennett, case number 2022-034; DOJ Inspector General Report Number 21-005.

Cleveland-based Attorney Kimberly Kendall Corral utilized some of the newly discovered evidence produced in the records case to file a petition to vacate Tony Viola’s federal conviction, based on the destruction of exculpatory evidence by prosecutors, use of coerced testimony and the undisclosed use of an “advocate witness” at trial.  In federal court, Mark Bennett falsely informed jurors that government witness Kathryn Clover was a “fact witness” testifying based on her personal knowledge of events, but Clover was actually a paid paralegal working inside the prosecutor’s office, and in a romantic relationship with state prosecutor Daniel Kasaris, In re: Anthony Viola, Case No. 23-3050, Sixth Circuit.

In the records case, The Court of Appeals found that Tony was likely to prevail in the case, and was entitled to counsel and forwarded a Motion for a Criminal Referral to the merits panel of three judges for further consideration. In its appellate brief, which has been posted in the FreeTonyViola.com Evidence Locker, the Yale Law School Advanced Appellate Clinic argued that:

  • The FBI and Justice Department are in violation of a 2016 court order requiring each to produce voice recordings made by Dawn Pasela, and emails from Prosecutors Mark Bennett and Dan Kasaris to government witness Kathryn Clover, who Bennett admitted committed perjury at Tony’s trial.
  • The Task Force constitutes a “federal agency” because it houses federally created records and was funded and staffed by federal agencies, thereby making the relocation of evidence there contrary to law.
  • "Reliance on Bennett to search for responsive records” was inappropriate, especially after the Justice Department Inspector General conducted a forensic found that Bennett routinely lied about the contents on his computer.

“Law enforcement officials routinely prosecute Americans through Task Forces but this Task Force was utilized to screen witnesses and shift evidence between locations and jurisdictions, often beyond the control of the judges overseeing federal and state prosecutions.  If these actions are permitted, the government’s obligation to produce exculpatory evidence before trials or plea negotiations no longer exists – prosecutors can simply shift exculpatory evidence to a different building, then claim they no longer possess or control such records. Evidence Mark Bennett stashed at the Task Force not only impacts my case but wholly undermined the government's theory in all of the Task Force’s prosecutions and may result in hundreds of criminal convictions being reviewed, according to the Yale court submission.”

“Finally,” Viola added, “We are also asking for a full investigation into the death of Dawn Pasela and request that all records concerning Ms. Pasela be made public at once."

ABOUT THE YALE LAW SCHOOL APPELLATE CLINIC:  The Yale Law School Appellate Litigation Project provides legal representation to pro se appellants with meritorious civil cases pending before the court.  For additional information about the clinic, please visit www.law.yale.edu/clinics/our-clinics.

ABOUT APPOINTED COUNSEL:  David Roth is a Visiting Clinical Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and Counsel in Wiggin and Dana’s Litigation Department.  Mr. Tadhg Dooley is a Visiting Clinical Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and an associate in the Appellate and Complex Legal Issues Group at Wiggin and Dana LLP in New Haven. Additional information is available at www.wiggin.com.

ABOUT ATTORNEY KIMBERLY KENDALL CORRAL:  Kimberly Kendall Corral has successfully and aggressively defended a wide range of criminal cases from misdemeanors to capital homicide cases. Kim represents clients at all levels of criminal justice advocacy. This includes investigation, indictment, pre-trial motions practice, trial, direct appeals, post-conviction remedies, jurisdictional appeals, habeas corpus, and wrongful conviction litigation.  Kim was invited to the Oval Office to discuss a client’s pardon with the President of the United States and White House Counsel. She was honored as a Rising Star in 2019 by Super Lawyers. Additional information about Attorney Kimberly Corral’s law practice and recent accomplishments can be found on her website, www.kimlawcrimlaw.com.

ABOUT FREETONYVIOLA.COM:  FreeTonyViola.com’s mission is to shine a bright spotlight on the ‘win at all costs’ tactics, prosecutorial overreach and misconduct the United States Department of Justice employs when prosecuting American citizens.  Tony Viola was investigated by the Cuyahoga County Mortgage Fraud Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional task force comprised of state, local and federal agencies, and prosecuted in parallel federal and state cases. He lost the federal case but won the subsequent state trial.  The website, originally created to solicit leads for Tony’s investigative team, has evolved into a tool to keep the public informed about critical developments in his case, and to share information that could potentially assist others who have been wrongfully ensnared by our criminal justice system.  For additional information, visit http://www.FreeTonyViola.com, friend us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tony.viola.9212, or follow us on Twitter @TonyViola.

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