P.G. Sittenfeld and his lawyers are claiming unfair pre-trial prejudice in a new motion filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on Wednesday.
Sittenfeld's lawyers allege "U.S. Attorney David DeVillers and FBI Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman made unfairly prejudicial public statements while announcing the charges during the November 19, 2020 press conference," including "cherry-picking" quotes from longer conversations and misconstruing essential facts.
The result? A corrupted jury pool and defense witnesses and acts that compromise "the integrity of our criminal justice system," reads a release from Sittenfeld's lawyers.
FBI agents arrested Sittenfeld at his home in November on a six-count federal indictment for bribery and extortion.
Instead of being accused of personally enriching himself — as is the case with the charges against former city council member Jeff Pastor — he is accused of arranging what amounted to campaign donations, though the FBI says he circumvented election law by directing those payments to a Political Action Committee.
According to the indictment, Sittenfeld instructed agents posing as developers on how they should donate money so that the cash would wind up in the PAC without revealing the sources. Ultimately, he is accused of personally accepting 10 checks, for a total of $40,000, in exchange for votes.
But Sittenfeld's lawyers say, "The government incorrectly stated on multiple occasions that Mr. Sittenfeld’s Progress and Growth PAC was a 'secret,' 'against federal law,' and a 'slush fund.' Facts demonstrate that Mr. Sittenfeld’s nonconnected Progress and Growth PAC was publicly and readily available to the government on the FEC web site starting on February 5, 2018, well before the government initiated its undercover investigation of Mr. Sittenfeld."
In another exchange included in the federal indictment, Sittenfeld reportedly told an undercover source posing as a developer, “I can move more votes than any single person” on the council. In another instance, Sittenfeld is alleged to have met two people he thought were developers in December 2018. The “developers” gave the politician four $5,000 checks, which he placed in his jacket pocket.
During the meeting, Sittenfeld allegedly promised he would get the votes necessary to support the development project, and added, “Don’t let these be my famous last words, but I can always get a vote to my left or a vote to the right.”
Quotes like these are the ones his lawyers claim were "edited partial quotes (the government used) to conveniently make their case." They say Sittenfeld is entitled to relief for the misstated facts and law.