Noe seeks clemency, ex-wife and others come to his defense

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TOLEDO, Ohio (13abc Action News) - Tom Noe was a political power in Lucas County Republican politics for more than a decade. He was party chairman from 1993 until his legal troubles ended his career.

Noe was convicted of illegally laundering money to president George W. Bush's re-elected campaign in 2004 and spent 2-years in federal prison.

But it was his conviction in an investment scheme known as Coingate that landed him an 18-year prison sentence. Now, Mr. Noe is asking the governor to let him out of prison.

His ex-wife Bernadette supports his appeal for clemency which could come after serving 10-years of that 18-year sentence. It is not easy for a wife who's been through hard times to come to her husband's defense.

Tom Noe says he was arrogant, selfish, and admits to theft and other offenses with regard to the Coingate scandal. But his application for clemency has a lot of supporters including two men who played very important roles in his conviction.

Bernadette Resitvo says her ex-husband is "completely different from the Tom that went in; from the Tom that committed the crimes."

It is not a stretch to say that Bernadette and Tom Noe were the power couple in Lucas County Republican party politics. They bankrolled candidates, knew presidents and built the party into a viable challenger in a Democratic town.

But power started to corrupt, first with Tom Noe laundering a reported $45,000 to the Bush re-election campaign in 2004.

Bernadette was blindsided, telling 13abc reporter Bill Hormann, "I remember saying to him, when he finally told me, i said, 'we gave how much to George Bush?' I was like, you gotta be kidding me."

Her husband spent 27-months in prison on federal charges.

But that was just the beginning.

In 2006, a rare coin fund that Tom managed for the Bureau of Workers Compensation since 1998 made headlines.

Money was missing, as much as $13.7 million. It happened in a hot Ohio political atmosphere with Democrats charging Republicans at all levels of government with a culture of corruption. Bernadette thinks her husband became a poster boy for political corruption, saying "he stupidly, criminally made some really big mistakes to give them legitimate reasons to come after him."

He was convicted of 29 charges, 25 of which were felonies, and sentenced to 18-years. Prosecutors sought 10 years under a plea deal the terms of which Bernadette says her husband could not accept.

But in 2018, Noe has now served those 10 mandatory years prosecutors had sought. So Noe's lawyers are filing for clemency armed with dozens of letters of support from family and friends.

Two are very interesting because of who wrote them.

One comes from then-Attorney General Jim Petro who investigated Noe.

Petro writes of the sentence, "...18 years of imprisonment was excessive and unjust."

The other support letter of note was written by the foreman of the jury who convicted Noe.

James Petiniot, who has since died, wrote in 2008, "... we didn't decide the case on evidence." He says the jury felt pressured so, "... we gave up and convicted Mr. Noe of crimes he did not commit."

Mr. Petiniot says he suffered sleepless nights over that conviction and believes Tom Noe was a scapegoat. He wrote the letter asking Noe be granted a pardon.

Bernadette says, "I felt that the minuet the judge pronounced the sentence. I felt in the courtroom an air of revenge." She adds, the political atmosphere of the time, the charges by Democrats of Republican elected leaders engaging in a Culture of Corruption polluted the water of a fair trial.

Tom Noe admits he was guilty of many charges filed against him, but Bernadette says justice now is granting Tom his clemency and letting out so he can work to pay his court-ordered restitution...

He has job offers from coin dealers (Mr. Noe became wealthy as a coin dealer, starting when he was 10 years old) but she says, but can't take them while he's behind bars.

Ms Restivo says, "He has changed. He's paid the price. He's remorseful, he's rehabilitated and it's what's just now for him to be released."

As for the state's fund Noe managed, it reportedly earned a $6 million return on the $50 million dollar investment. Restivo insists the state would have more money if the coins in the portfolio were sold to coin dealers and not at what she described as a 'firesale.'

Bernadette speaks with her ex-husband often, she even visited him at the Marion Correctional Institution February 18.

They have five kids combined from previous marriages. The couple divorced in 2009, but are friendly and "trying to work through it," Bernadette says.

If released, Tom Noe could live with his ex-wife who now resides in Key West, Florida. Ms. Restivo is a lawyer serving as a public defender working with children. She is active in the community.

But Noe's fate is up to the Ohio Parole Board and then Ohio governor John Kasich whom the Noe's do not know well.

Lucas County prosecutor Julia Bates reportedly does not support this clemency application.

In 2015, governor Kasich denied a similar request. But it's three-years later and Noe will have served the 10-year mandatory sentence prosecutors originally demanded.

Bernadette Resitvo says it's time to set Tom Noe free.

A decision by the governor could come by Christmas.

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