Press Conference on the Dan Kasaris prosecutorial misconduct allegations
Live from Tony Viola's living room, a coalition of activists and victims of prosecutorial abuse share new information about Kasaris and the endemic corruption of Ohio prosecutors and judges.
My opening statement:
Hello, my name is Brian “BZ” Douglas, an independent journalist based outside Cleveland, Ohio. I called this press conference today in order to bring attention to allegations of prosecutorial misconduct against Senior Assistant Attorney General Dan Kasaris.
I started looking into this story nearly a year ago, and it is, quite frankly, too big for me to cover alone. Many times now I have summarized this investigation as a “rabbit hole that branches off into more rabbit holes that lead to underground ponds to go fishing in”.
When I first discovered these allegations in January, my first question was: Why hasn’t anyone covered this?
Over the last year, there were two other essential questions that I had to answer before I was moved to publish:
Was Tony Viola truly the man before me, who so many people were willing to defend?
Was it possible that a prosecutor could get away with such brazen acts of misconduct?
Over time, the answer to both of those questions for me became an emphatic “Yes”.
Over the last two months, I have begun to release stories from this investigation. First was Kelly Patrick, ex-wife of Kasaris’ brother John Patrick, who has credible evidence to back up her allegations that Kasaris intervened as Cuyahoga County prosecutor to prevent his brother from being charged with domestic abuse and drug charges for a basement grow operation.
A week and a half ago, I released a 3,000 word article containing a Netflix series worth of interviews, which details the sordid tale of the prosecution of Tony Viola. Kasaris and U.S. attorney Mark Bennett, his federal counterpart in a mortgage fraud task force, engaged in multiple instances of prosecutorial misconduct to convict Viola in federal court, but have faced no consequences.
Kasaris and Bennett wired up their office manager, Dawn Pasela, and sent her to spy on Viola before the trial. Pasela also witnessed the suppression of evidence and a sexual relationship between Kasaris and a key witness, Kathryn Clover. She eventually provided all of this information to Viola and personally assisted him with his legal defense at a state trial where he faced all the same charges as the federal. With her help, Viola was acquitted on all counts.
Pasela was called to testify on Viola’s behalf but never appeared in court. The following day she was found dead in her apartment of an alleged alcohol overdose. The convenience of her death, coupled with the many suspicious details surrounding that day, leave myself, Viola, and Dawn’s Parent’s very disturbed that Dawn’s death has never been fully investigated.
Today I have invited Kelly Patrick, Tony Viola, and Dawn’s parents, Edward and Karen Pasela (speaking publically for the first time), to share additional aspects of their stories that still need attention from the press, and any government agencies that are supposed to address prosecutorial abuse.
It was only a few weeks ago that the Paselas finally decided to meet me, providing the last pieces of the story I felt were necessary to tell it fully. I was only able to convince them to come forward because I genuinely care about this, and was moved and angered by the story of their daughter’s death. I believe their daughter should be celebrated as someone who tried to do the right thing, and that she would best be honored by exposing the corruption she planned to testify to.
We are also joined by several individuals and organizations who can speak to additional abuse by Kasaris, or the fact that this type of abuse is not an anomaly.
Keith Wilson from the People’s Archive of Police Violence, where this reporting ultimately originated from
Mariah Crenshaw of Chasing Justice LLC, who spoke to the current landscape of prosecutorial behavior in Cuyahoga County
Brenda Bickerstaff, a leading organizer for Issue 24 and a private investigator who Kasaris once threatened to indict for simply doing her job
Robert Grundstein, a Vermont attorney with Cleveland roots. He is the author of "Bad Minds, High Places, etc." which describes the systemic failures of Cleveland's legal system and the FBI raids on Cuyahoga County.
Elsebeth Baumgartner, former entrepreneur, pharmacist, and attorney who served five of an eight year sentence that ultimately goes back to her attempts to expose corruption by Kasaris and others in the legal community
Before we hear from them, I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself to my professional peers in the press. I took up this path in the summer of George Floyd, covering the black lives matter movement here locally. I set out to learn this trade by doing it, the same way I carved out a successful career in web design and development.
Over the last sixteen months, I have been a student of this city, looking to its activists and its most oppressed citizens as my teachers. I have learned about police abuse and prosecutorial misconduct from those on the front lines like BLM Cleveland, New Era Cleveland, the Cuyahoga County Jail Coalition, Tamir’s Campaign for Justice, and legal activists like Mariah Crenshaw and Dr. Richard Montgomery III from Chasing Justice.
Several journalists have offered me advice, mentorship, and peer review along the way. In this regard, I would like to especially thank Eric Sandy for his encouragement and helping me get my first story published in Cleveland Scene, as well as offering editorial assistance on this latest article. And lastly, I must extend some public gratitude to Tim Tolka, author of Blue Mafia, which tells the story of Richard Olivito and how the nation’s first consent decrees in Warren and Steubenville came to be. Anyone who talks to me about criminal justice in Ohio for more than 10 minutes will eventually get a pitch from me to buy the book. Tolka and I talk regularly, and his insights and assistance on this story and my career as a whole has been invaluable.