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County Official Resigns, Takes Federal Plea Deal

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Cuyahoga County Recorder Patrick O'Malley has a problem with women. He says they ruined his life and destroyed his career. He also had a problem with Web sites - those he visited and the one he maintained for the county. O'Malley's guilty plea last Thursday is shedding light on the arrogant official's 20-year career and how problems with women, web sites and patronage brought it all to an abrupt end.

The charges of importing and transporting obscene materials O’Malley pleaded to carry a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence in the case will be determined by a court hearing scheduled in August.

The investigation into O’Malley has been ongoing since FBI agents first seized personal computers from O’Malley’s home in 2004 after his ex-wife tipped federal authorities to possible crimes.

O'Malley's lawyer, Ian Friedman, declined to detail the nature of the computer images that led to O'Malley's plea. He said the images did not include child pornography but said O'Malley's computer contained adult images that jurors may have considered legally obscene.

"There is certain material that crosses the line," Friedman said. "I can't comment on the exact nature. I think it will be debated at sentencing."

Prosecutors told U.S. District Judge David Dowd during the hearing that O'Malley accessed the images through an America Online account between February 1998 and November 2004. The charge states that, on or about Feb. 18, 1998 through Nov. 10, 2004, O'Malley used an "interactive computer service for the carriage in interstate and foreign commerce of numerous obscene, lewd, lascivious and filthy pictures, writings and other matters of indecent character, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1462(a)."

It isn't known what charges were taken off the table during O'Malley's negotiations. According to The Plain Dealer the obscenity charge is used almost exclusively when defendants negotiate with investigators and then plead guilty.

In the past few years the county recorder and Democrat leader with a reputation for brawling, both politically and on the street, has been plagued with problems that question his ethics.

Problems with women

In July 2004 O'Malley was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence against Vicki, his second wife. The case was thrown out but Ms. O'Malley said her ex-husband used political connections to get a special July 4 holiday hearing in order to get out of jail early.

In November, FBI agents raided O'Malley's Chagrin Falls home. The search warrant said agents were looking for evidence of a business deal that O'Malley helped broker and images of child pornography. Two personal computers belonging to O’Malley were confiscated. The incident might have gone unnoticed until Vicki made the records public by placing information about the search in her Ohio Lottery personnel file thus tipping the media.

O’Malley’s problems with women continued the following year when ex-girlfriend Marion Rivera called police in two suburbs, over a few days, complaining that O'Malley was verbally abusive to her.

O'Malley said he caught Rivera cheating and threw her out. He vowed to quit dating for a while. "Women have ruined my life and career," he said.

But that didn’t stop him from asking Cathy Luks to lunch at a popular political hangout in January 2008 shortly after she filed to run against him for Cuyahoga County recorder. Midway through their 75-minute meeting O’Malley offered Luks a $50,000-a-year job in his office if she dropped out of the race. Luks, a former North Royalton mayor, may have been aware of O’Malley’s history of offering jobs for political favors. She refused his offer and documented the conversation with a recorder hidden in her pocket and later provided the tape to local media.

With the county recorder's seat now empty, the county Democratic Party must find a replacement to fill his seat and run for election against Luks, a Republican, in the November general election. Other than judges, there are currently no elected Republican leaders in Cuyahoga County government. For now, O'Malley's chief of staff Tom Roche is running the recorder's office until and unless the county commissioners appoint an interim candidate

"It doesn't matter who the Democratic machine comes up with. There can no longer be one-party rule if there is to be accountability," Ms. Luks said, in an interview with the Plain Dealer.

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Called a "Patriot" by some and "One Angry Texan" by others, Mr. Bloys publishes News for Public Officials (and the people they serve).

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