The government says convicted Florida swindler Alfredo Sararo received a fair trial in 2012, rebutting his claim that his one-time friend, a retired Allegheny County judge, lied about his own role in fleecing wealthy Pittsburghers and that prosecutors knew it.
Sararo, a former Monroeville tennis star and county probation officer, was convicted of using Judge Robert Horgos to solicit a dozen of his rich friends to invest in bogus Florida property deals.
In his appeal for a new trial, he said the government improperly allowed Mr. Horgos, its key witness, to testify under immunity when assistant U.S. attorney Brendan Conway knew he was lying.
Mr. Conway "stood silent" while the judge's testimony "infected the entire trial," said lawyer Craig Crawford.
In its response, the Justice Department said Sararo orchestrated the scheme for his own benefit, victimizing Mr. Horgos and others, and is trying now to shift the blame from himself to Mr. Horgos as he did at trial.
Mr. Conway described Sararo as a con artist who forged signatures, falsified documents and persuaded others to falsify documents, stole from Mr. Horgos' bank account, lied to the FBI and cheated on his taxes.
But Mr. Horgos' credibility was the central issue, as it has been from the inception of the case in 2007.
The government said Mr. Conway properly addressed Horgos' credibility problems in a letter he gave to Sararo's lawyer in July 2012. Among them were misrepresentations he made to lenders, such as telling them that his house would be used as collateral and that he owned it free and clear when he did not.
Sararo's lawyer used the letter in cross-examining Mr. Horgos.
The government noted that the trial judge, John Steele, had agreed that Mr. Conway acted correctly.
"The government has the duty of disclosure," Judge Steele had said. "They made that. The jury will decide whether, in the end, any of the witnesses are telling the truth."
To show misconduct by a prosecutor, a defendant has to prove the prosecutor knowingly used false testimony.
The government said Mr. Horgos did not lie in the first place.
In summarizing the case, however, prosecutors did note that Judge Steele ordered Sararo to repay everyone he ripped off except Mr. Horgos because it was not clear if the judge was "always a victim, always a co-schemer, or some combination."
Torsten Ove: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-231-0132.