Ohio Workers’ Comp Wants Lawyers Banned from Testifying in Court

November 6, 2006

The state insurance fund for injured workers wants to keep three of its attorneys from testifying on behalf of coin dealer Tom Noe, on trial on charges of stealing $2 million from a state investment in rare coins.

The attorneys are in-house lawyers with no firsthand knowledge of Noe or the $50 million coin funds he was managing, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation said in a court filing Thursday.

The state says laws protecting the privacy of information exchanged between attorneys and clients should prevent the testimony because anything the three know about the funds they heard in their jobs as lawyers.

As a result, “their testimony would be privileged, their subpoenas should be quashed, and no testimony should be solicited from them,” said William Becker, an assistant state attorney general

Messages were left with two of the attorneys, Pat Smith and Greg Johnson, seeking comment. The third, Tina Arkenberg, declined to comment.

Noe’s attorneys subpoenaed the three to appear as defense witnesses beginning next week. A message was left with Noe attorney Bill Wilkinson. Bureau spokeswoman Nancy Smeltzer declined comment, deferring to the argument in the legal filing.

Noe, 52, a former prominent Republican fundraiser, is on trial in Lucas County on charges of theft, money laundering, forgery and corrupt activity. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say Noe loaned the state’s money to friends and spent it on himself and his coin business.

The bureau gave Noe $25 million to invest in rare coins in 1998, followed by another $25 million in 2001. Democrats charge that he got the money because of his political connections.

State Sen. Marc Dann, a critic of the bureau who has sued successfully for records relating to the coin scandal, said the state shouldn’t try to stop the lawyers from testifying.

“Obviously there’s something that somebody wants to prevent the jury from hearing,” said Dann, the Democratic candidate for attorney general.

Another lawyer who left the agency, John Annarino, the bureau’s former chief legal counsel, was listed among prosecutors’ witnesses but did not testify.

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