Jury selection set in ex-Portage mayor’s bribery retrial

Jury selection is set to begin Monday in a former northwestern Indiana mayor’s long-delayed retrial on a federal charge alleging that he solicited a bribe from two businessmen.

A federal jury had convicted former Portage Mayor James Snyder in February 2019 of bribery and federal tax violations, but the bribery verdict was later overturned.

Another judge ruled in November 2019 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 Snyder.

The former mayor’s retrial has been delayed repeatedly because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Federal prosecutors anticipate a trial of up to seven days, while Snyder’s attorneys expect a trial of up to four days, the Post-Tribune of Merrillville reported, citing court records.

Once the trial begins in Hammond, the public will be able to watch the trial via live stream in the jury assembly room because of COVID-19 precautions, said Jay Schrader, a case manager with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.

Prosecutors allege that Snyder, 42, 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 pleaded not guilty to the charge. His legal team argues the $13,000 was a legitimate payment for consulting services Snyder provided the trucking dealership to save money on the cost of insurance and information technology.

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