CLEVELAND — A onetime fugitive went on trial Monday on charges of masterminding a $100 million multistate fraud under the guise of helping Navy veterans, with prosecutors calling him a lying thief and the defense detailing his charity work.
The 67-year-old defendant calls himself Bobby Thompson, but authorities have identified him as Harvard-trained lawyer and former military intelligence officer John Donald Cody.
Assistant Ohio Attorney Brad Tommario called the defendant a thief who cannot tell the truth and said he had siphoned nearly $3 million from Ohio donors. Defense attorney Joseph Patituce used a white board to detail the defendant’s charity work, which it has defended as legal.
A jury was selected last week, and testimony is expected to begin later Monday.
The defendant is charged with defrauding donors to a reputed charity, the United States Navy Veterans Association based in Tampa, Fla. He could face 40 years in prison if convicted. The judge mentioned the possibility of a plea deal last week, but both sides discounted that possibility.
The judge rejected a renewed defense request to subpoena testimony from leading Ohio Republicans including U.S. House Speaker John Boehner.
The defendant has showered politicians, often Republicans, with donations, and the defense wanted to show that they were legal.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, also the subject of a subpoena move, said the alleged crimes can be proved without delving deeply into his political giving. DeWine’s office is handling the trial.
Besides Boehner, political gifts went to almost every member of the state’s GOP congressional delegation and to former state Attorneys General Jim Petro and Betty Montgomery, both of whom were defense subpoena targets.