Judge changes course, opts to keep ex-mayor’s bribery case

A federal judge who last week recused herself from the bribery case of a former northwestern Indiana mayor has changed course and will preside over the man’s retrial after all.

U.S. District Court Judge Theresa Springmann on Tuesday vacated the recusal order she had issued last Friday in the case involving former Portage Mayor James Snyder, The Times of Northwest Indiana reported.

Springmann, whose court is in Hammond, did not explain her decision to keep the case, but she scheduled a telephone status hearing for Friday afternoon.

On Nov. 2, Springmann scheduled Dec. 7 as the start for Snyder’s retrial on a soliciting bribes charge which alleges that he solicited a bribe from two local businessmen. Four days later, she issued her now-vacated recusal order.

Court record show that Snyder’s new bribery trial is still slated to begin Dec. 7.

A federal jury convicted Snyder in February 2019 of bribery and federal tax violations, but the bribery verdict was later overturned. Another judge ruled that Snyder deserved a new trial because he was denied the chance of calling brothers Bob and Steve Buha to testify that they didn’t bribe him.

Last month, Springmann decided that Snyder must face a new jury on the bribery charge, overruling defense arguments that a second trial was barred by the constitutional protection against double jeopardy.

Prosecutors allege Snyder corruptly steered $1.125 million in contracts for the city of Portage to buy garbage trucks from a Portage trucking company in 2013, when the Buha brothers were its owners.

The government alleges Snyder solicited and received a $13,000 bribe from the brothers a few weeks later.

Snyder has pleaded not guilty.

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