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Former Portage mayor says delays justify dropping his federal bribery case

Former Portage mayor says delays justify dropping his federal bribery case

James E. Snyder

With his wife Deborah at his side, Portage Mayor James Snyder talks to reporters at the U.S. District Court in Hammond after he was found guilty Feb. 14, 2019, on two of three counts in his public corruption trial.

HAMMOND — Former Portage Mayor James Snyder is seeking have his pending federal bribery case dismissed, arguing that his rights to a speedy trial have been violated, according to a new court filing.

The move came Thursday, the same day U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly of the Northern District of Illinois was appointed to oversee the case after U.S. District Court Judge Theresa Springmann again recused herself.

"Even if Mr. Snyder’s retrial began on January 30, 2021 — the first day available after the District’s General Order 2020-32 expires — it would be outside the 70-day window provided by the Speedy Trial Act," according to a filing by Snyder's defense team.

The team of attorneys argue the act cited mandates dismissal and there is "compelling circumstances" calling for dismissal without the right to refile the charge.

"In addition, a trial on a count taking place eight years after much of the relevant conduct occurred, more than four years after the indictment was returned, two years after the applicable statute of limitations lapsed, and more than a year after a new trial was ordered, would violate Mr. Snyder’s Sixth Amendment speedy trial right," according to the motion. "Following dismissal, this case may finally proceed to sentencing on the tax count."

Snyder was indicated in late 2016 and he was found guilty in early 2019 of bribery and federal tax violations.

The bribery verdict was overturned in late 2019 and Springmann decided last month Snyder must face a new jury on the bribery charge, overruling defense arguments that a second trial was barred by the constitutional protection against double jeopardy.

It was announced Monday that Snyder's new bribery trial, which was set to begin Dec. 7, has been postponed until sometime after Jan. 29 due to concerns over threats posed by the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal prosecutors are again trying to prove Snyder solicited a bribe from two Portage businessmen.

The government alleges the then-mayor steered $1.125 million in contracts for the city of Portage to buy garbage trucks from a Portage trucking firm in 2013.

The government alleges Snyder solicited and received a $13,000 bribe from the firm’s former owners a few weeks later.

Snyder has pleaded not guilty.

His law team argues the $13,000 was a legitimate payment for consulting services Snyder provided the trucking dealership to save money on the cost of insurance and information technology.

Gallery: Recent arrests booked into Porter County Jail


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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.

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