Posted at: 10/22/2013 5:37 PM
Updated at: 10/22/2013 5:44 PM
By: Brett Davidsen
I-Team 10 was in court Tuesday when testimony began in the trial of a Rochester reverend. Authorities say Ron House lied to judges and lined his own pockets. House is a well-known local anti-crime activist and former county employee.
Prosecutors say House took money from convicted criminals and told them he could get them more lenient sentences.
The case is being heard in Buffalo because so many of the people being called as witnesses are part of the Rochester legal community, from judges to prosecutors to probation officers. They all had regular contact with House through his efforts to help counsel and rehabilitate criminals.
What prosecutors say he did was take money from criminals by telling them he could get them favorable treatment. The government says House then misled and made fraudulent statement to judges hearing those cases.
One of the cases was Bruce Gibson, who had violated his probation on a gun charge. On the stand Tuesday was probation officer Cathy Salvaggio. She told jurors that House came to her and wrongly told her that Gibson had a cooperation agreement with police and prosecutors in an effort to get her to forgo fitting Gibson for a court-ordered monitoring device. Gibson was ultimately sent to a halfway house.
Authorities say Ron House then used his influence to get Gibson out of custody for a few hours every week, telling officials at the halfway house that Gibson was attending church and participating in a men's group. According to court documents, Gibson and his sister paid House a total of $9,000 for his assistance.
Both sides declined to comment after Tuesday's first day of testimony. Although House worked for several years for Monroe County, there appears to be no connection between this case and his job as the equal employment opportunity coordinator there. He has since resigned that county position.
Two federal court judges, David Larimer and Charles Siragusa, are expected to testify in this case. Also on the witness list, two political public figures, Senator Joseph Robach and Assistant to Rochester Mayor Daryl Porter, who both wrote letters at House's behest in support of a convicted drug dealer.