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Eighth District: Second Calabrese Accomplice’s Bribery Conviction Upheld

A three-judge panel affirmed the conviction of a Cleveland attorney for conspiring with prominent Cleveland attorney Anthony O. Calabrese III, and another attorney to offer cash settlements to women who accused their client of rape, in exchange for dropping the charges or seeking a lighter sentence.

The Eighth District Court of Appeals on Thursday affirmed the conviction of Marc Doumbas, who, along with Calabrese and criminal defense lawyer G. Timothy Marshall, was implicated in an attempt to bribe the victims of Thomas Castro. Castro pled guilty to two counts of sexual battery and, in exchange, rape charges were dropped against him.

The decision comes nearly a month after Marshall’s appeal was affirmed by the same three appellate judges visiting from the Columbus-based Tenth District Court of Appeals. Doumbas and Marshall were convicted in November 2013, on two counts of bribery and each sentenced to one year in prison. They separately appealed their convictions. Calabrese pled guilty in Cuyahoga County to bribery and a pattern of corrupt activity for his participation. He is presently serving nine years in federal prison on other charges and was disbarred by the Ohio Supreme Court on June 3.

Calabrese represented Castro on business matters and when Castro was charged with rape, Calabrese brought in Doumbas and Marshall, who shared office space, to assist in the representation. Marshall was charged with trying to bribe one of Castro’s alleged victims by first offering money if she agreed to drop her charges, and later, after Castro pled guilty to sexual battery, offering her money if she agreed to say something nice about Castro at the sentencing hearing. Doumbas was not directly involved in making the offer, but Castro testified that Doumbas was aware, and Doumbas acknowledged he spoke with Marshall about extending the offer.

The charges against Doumbas and Marshall stem first from a meeting Marshall arranged with a former employee of his who worked with one Castro’s victims. Marshall had the employee, Doumbas, and a few others meet at lunch and discuss whether the employee could find out if the victim was interested in a $54,000 civil settlement for her “pain and suffering” and another $6,000 for her attorney. The employee was said to believe Marshall’s offer was that the criminal charge would go away if the victim took the offer.

The victim turned down the offer and then told the prosecutor in the Castro case. The lunch guests testified that Doumbas did not make any offers during the meeting and he was acquitted of a bribery charge stemming from the meeting, while Marshall was found guilty.

After Castro took a plea agreement, Marshall contacted attorney Harvey Bruner, who represented the victim’s boyfriend in another unrelated matter. Marshall sought to have Bruner ask the boyfriend if he would speak to his girlfriend about reaching a civil settlement. In exchange for $50,000, the victim was asked to “say something nice to the judge” about Castro at sentencing. Bruner told the boyfriend he had concerns, but could represent the woman if the settlement was conducted in a legal manner. The boyfriend did not relay the offer to the victim, but called the police. Prosecutors argued that Doumbas was the lead attorney for Castro in rape cases and was aware that Marshall was making the offer to Bruner. Doumbas also testified he followed up with Marshall to determine whether the conversation happened.

Doumbas’ second bribery conviction did not involve Marshall, but rather Calabrese, who had contacted Hector Martinez, the attorney for the other woman accusing Castro of rape. After Castro agreed to plead guilty, Calabrese contacted Martinez and offered a $50,000 “civil settlement” if the woman would write a letter suggesting Castro receive treatment and not receive jail time.

The woman rejected the offer, and Martinez indicated Calabrese made two more attempts and increased the offer to $90,000, which the woman also rejected. Martinez and the woman testified they never spoke to Doumbas, but Castro testified that Doumbas was aware of the negotiations.

Doumbas appealed his conviction, arguing among other things, that there was no evidence he directly promised or offered anything to the alleged victims or any of their representatives, so he could not be convicted as an accomplice to bribery.

Writing for the Eighth District, Judge Julia L. Dorrian cited R.C. 2923.03(A)(2), which states that to convict Doumbas of complicity for aiding and abetting, the evidence must show Doumbas “supported, assisted, encouraged, cooperated with, advised or incited” the person who did offer the bribe and shared the person’s intent.

Judge Dorrian wrote it was reasonable for the jury to infer that Doumbas and Marshall planned the offer to Bruner together because of Doumbas’ role as lead attorney. But Judge Dorrian noted that to convict Doumbas, the state also had to prove he shared Marshall’s criminal intent.

Citing the Fourth District Court of Appeals’ 2005 ruling in State v. Colbert, Judge Dorrian wrote that even short conversations and exchanges of information between two people can provide sufficient evidence of a conspiracy to commit a crime. Specifically, when Doumbas testified he would be expected to know if Marshall was taking action that could affect his client, and that he followed up with Marshall to check that the call to Bruner was made, the jury made a reasonable conclusion that Doumbas shared Marshall’s intent to bribe the woman.

Regarding the second charge, Judge Dorrian explained that Calabrese did not testify in the trial against Doumbas and Marshall, but the state had obtained phone records of calls between Calabrese and Doumbas. The records reveal extensive calls between the two during the times Calabrese made the settlement offers to Martinez.

“Although (Doumbas) testified there was no discussion of a bribe during his conversations with Calabrese, the jury could have rejected that assertion,” she wrote.

Judges Lisa L. Sadler and William A. Klatt concurred in the decision.

State v. Doumbas, 2015-Ohio-3026
Criminal Appeal From: Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court
Judgment Appealed From Is: Affirmed
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: July 30, 2015

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