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Snyder day 16

The trial of Portage Mayor James Snyder, center right, continued this week in U.S. District Court in Hammond. Here, Snyder arrives with his defense team on Jan. 14, the first day of the trial.

HAMMOND — Portage Assistant Street Superintendent Randy Reeder said he was under severe emotional distress when he told a grand jury he felt like he was Mayor James Snyder's pawn.

Reeder is at the center of a charge that Snyder took a $13,000 bribe from Steve and Bob Buha, owners of Great Lakes Peterbilt at the time, in exchange for steering more than $1 million in garbage truck purchases. Reeder said Friday he wants to recant what he told the grand jury in early 2016.

"I said I felt like a pawn," Reeder said of his grand jury testimony.

"You told the grand jury, 'I felt like Snyder's pawn,'" Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster said.

"I want to recant that," Reeder answered.

Reeder spent Friday on the stand under direct questioning by Snyder attorney Jayna Cacioppo and cross-examination by Koster.

During that questioning, Reeder testified Snyder was not involved in the bidding process nor did Snyder direct him to make sure the contracts went to Great Lakes Peterbilt.

Reeder's testimony was in direct conflict with previous testimony of former Street Superintendent Steve Charnetsky and FBI agents who claimed Snyder chose Reeder to work on the project and to make sure the Buhas received the bids.

Reeder said he didn't know of a relationship between the Buhas and Snyder nor that Snyder lunched with the Buhas a day before one of the rounds of bids was to be opened.

In that direct questioning, Cacioppo asked Reeder if he felt threatened by the government and if his grand jury testimony was accurate.

"There were a few things I disagree with," Reeder said of his grand jury testimony.

"Yes. I was afraid the government would not believe me in my statements and I would be incarcerated," Reeder said of his state of mind at the time.

Reeder also told jurors "multiple layers of emotional stress" were going on in his life at the time due to his daughter's diagnosis and treatment for leukemia.

Under cross-examination, Koster asked what corrections he wanted to make.

Reeder said he "misspoke in error" to the grand jury about Snyder knowing about the 150-day delivery requirement for the first round of bidding for the garbage trucks.

"I'd like to change that. He didn't know," Reeder said, adding there were a couple of other items he wanted to change.

After reviewing his grand jury testimony from 2016 during a lunch break, Reeder said he wanted to recant testimony in which he said evidence pointed to Snyder wanting the contracts to go to Great Lakes Peterbilt and that Snyder wanted the deal done as quickly as possible.

Reeder said he felt threatened during an interview with Koster and FBI agents.

"They said if I don't come clean for what I know ... I would not see my family and go to jail," Reeder recounted.

Koster asked him if that was when investigators informed him it was a crime to lie to law enforcement.

"Yes," Reeder replied.

"It's a crime to lie under oath. Do you take that as a threat?" Koster then asked.

"No," Reeder said. "It was the way the government provided that information and the emotional stress I was going through. I misspoke in those statements."

Koster replied that the only statements Reeder wanted to recant were those that were incriminating Snyder.

During continued testimony, Reeder denied Snyder directed him to make sure Great Lakes Peterbilt received the contracts. He told jurors he spoke with Snyder only to keep him updated on the process.

"I never discussed that with the mayor about tailoring the spec," he said while talking about the second round of bids, which prosecutors allege were aimed to make sure Great Lakes Peterbilt could meet them.

In that round, it is alleged the specifications were written so that the company could sell the city a 2-year-old truck while bid requirements included verbiage that the trucks must be new, unused and of the current model year.

Reeder said the truck in question, which allowed the Great Lakes Peterbilt bid to be the lowest, was new and unused, but that he ignored the requirement it be of the current model year.

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.