Ted Suhl, the mental health services executive sentenced Oct. 27 to seven years in prison in a federal bribery case, should be allowed to remain free pending appeal, his attorneys argued in a motion filed this week.
A jury convicted Suhl of four counts of bribing a state official to gain advantage for his business, which received money through the Department of Human Services for residential and outpatient treatment.
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The government doesn’t argue that Suhl presents a flight risk or that the appeal is just a delaying tactic. But it does contest whether defense arguments to overturn the conviction are “substantial.” Defense attorneys said the argument is “close.”
“To avoid the potential and irremediable injustice of imprisoning Suhl for convictions that may be reversed on substantial appellate grounds, this Court should grant Suhl release pending appeal,” Suhl’s attorneys Robert Cary and Chuck Banks wrote.
His lawyers cited: 1) that the judge omitted a quid pro quo requirement from jury instructions about conviction on a bribery charge. The defense contends no proof was shown that Suhl received benefits from payments to Stephen Jones, a former DHS official. The judge had ruled that intent to influence was sufficient. 2) The relevance of a recent U.S. Supreme Court reversal of the conviction of a former governor of Virginia who received gifts because no “official action” resulted. 3) Evidentiary rulings were improper. These included a limitation on cross-examination of a government witness, Philip Carter, who was involved in another criminal case; refusal to allow testimony by an expert on the Freedom of Information Act, and a limitation on information that could be offered about Suhl’s extensive charitable giving beyond gitfts to a church the government said were part of a scheme to funnel money to the state official.
The government contended none of these arguments was substantial enough to result in a reversal or a new trial.
Federal Judge Billy Roy Wilson has not ruled on the motion. At sentencing, Suhl was directed to report to prison Jan. 3.