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Portage Mayor James Snyder

Portage Mayor James Snyder delivers his State of the City address in February.

HAMMOND — Barring any unforeseen circumstances the federal public corruption trial of Portage Mayor James Snyder will begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 9.

During a less than 30 minute final pre-trial conference in U.S District Court Friday morning, Snyder's attorney, as well as that of his co-defendant John Cortina and federal prosecutors agreed they are ready to begin the trial.

Snyder was indicted in November 2016 on charges of felony bribery, extortion and tax dodging counts. He has pleaded not guilty. Cortina, a Portage towing company owner, was charged with one count of bribery, alleging he gave Snyder $12,000 to be put on the city's tow list. 

The conference was held by Magistrate Judge John Martin.

Martin quickly went through a laundry list of details, from producing witness lists to final discovery, and set deadlines for both sides to file any additional materials or motions in the case.

The two sides must put together a list of agreed upon questions for prospective jurors, jury instructions and witness lists prior to the trial.

Martin set an Oct. 1 deadline for a possible plea agreement.

"That deadline won't matter," said U.S. Assistant Attorney Phil Benson.

The possible wrench in the case, however, is that U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen has not ruled on whether Snyder's Sixth Amendment rights had been violated over the possibility federal prosecutors saw attorney/client privileged emails during the "taint team" or view process.

Snyder contends federal prosecutors unfairly saw emails and work product that should have been considered attorney/client privilege. He is asking the court to either dismiss the indictment or disqualify the prosecuting team.

The emails in question were between Snyder and now U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch and were seized via a search warrant in 2015.

Snyder hired Kirsch in 2014. The government last year named Kirsch as U.S. attorney for Northern Indiana. Kirsch has recused himself from the case, which now is being managed by the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago.

Snyder's defense team contends the federal "taint team" failed in its job to review emails, separating out those that could be considered attorney/client privilege. 

A series of hearings were held earlier this year, primarily behind closed doors, with final briefs filed on the matter late last month.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster asked Martin if he had any idea when Van Bokkelen might make a ruling on the issue. Koster said pending a ruling on the motion, there is some information Benson has not seen and may need to see.

Martin said he did not and directed her to ask Van Bokkelen.

"It is a fluid situation that may change some dynamics," Martin said.

"We reserve the right, depending on the ruling, to respond or file a new motion," Benson said. 

When discussing exhibits, Benson also told the judge there are "massive amounts of documents" prosecutors are going through. Koster added there will be "so much material" placed on the exhibit list.

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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.