HAMMOND — A federal jury's verdict ensured two title changes for James Snyder Thursday: He is now the former Portage mayor and is a convicted felon.
After a trial spanning three weeks, the Hammond federal court jury found Snyder guilty of two felonies — one bribery count and another tax-related felony. The panel acquitted Snyder of a third bribery charge.
The bribery conviction is punishable by up to ten years in prison, while the obstruction count is punishable by up to three years, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois, which has been overseeing the case.
After walking from the Hammond courthouse, Snyder highlighted the dismissed charge.
Standing on the courthouse plaza holding the hand of his wife, Deborah, the disgraced former mayor said the jury "knocked one of the charges out."
But in posting the guilty verdict to two other felony charges, the jury also knocked Snyder out of the mayor's office.
Under Indiana law, a felony conviction immediately removes an elected official from public office.
Snyder, who was in the last year of his second term, will temporarily be replaced by Portage City Council President Sue Lynch, D-at-large.
She will serve as acting mayor until Portage Republican precinct committee members can elect someone to fulfill Snyder's term in a special caucus. Snyder's existing term was set to expire Dec. 31.
Jurors found Snyder guilty of accepting a $13,000 bribe from former Great Lakes Peterbilt owners Bob and Steve Buha in exchange for some $1.25 million in garbage truck bids. They also found him guilty of a tax obstruction charge in which he was accused of creating a sham company to hide money from the IRS.
Snyder was acquitted on a third charge, which alleged he accepted a $12,000 bribe from former co-defendant John Cortina and Samson Towing owner Scott Jurgensen, also an undercover FBI informant, to put the duo on the city's tow list.
Snyder contended throughout the 19-day trial the funds were a $2,000 contribution to his campaign committee and a $10,000 loan to his campaign.
Cortina pleaded guilty last month to a felony charge of paying Snyder the bribe and is scheduled to be sentenced in April.
Jurors deliberated nearly 12 hours over two days in the trial, which saw more than 20 witnesses and more than 15 days of testimony.
The investigation into Snyder began in September 2013 and led to a November 2016 grand jury indictment of Snyder and Cortina.
"This has been a really long road," Snyder said as he left the courthouse.
As the verdict was read, neither Snyder, his wife nor his parents showed any emotion to the convictions.
Snyder's contempt for the government prosecution, however, was evident.
Following the reading of the verdict, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen and others discussed Snyder's decision to waive a jury hearing on the forfeiture of $13,000 resulting from the bribery conviction.
Van Bokkelen, who said he had never dealt with the issue in a similar way, asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson for advice.
Snyder asked the judge why he was asking the government prosecutor for advice and not Snyder's own attorney.
"It's really hard to take his word for anything," Snyder said, directing his comment toward Benson.
Unlike during Tuesday's closing arguments, which saw a packed courtroom of Snyder's friends and family, only a handful of family members and friends were present when the verdict was read Thursday.
Snyder said the jurors saw beyond the allegations in the towing-related bribery charge, which led to an acquittal on that charge.
He said he will continue to fight the conviction, presumably through appeal.
One of his attorneys, Jackie Bennett, said during the afternoon courtroom session they have "reserved a number of issues for appeal."
Snyder is scheduled to be sentenced at 11 a.m. May 24 before Van Bokkelen.