Reports: Browns' Policy Accused

Wednesday, July 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland Browns president Carmen Policy has been accused of paying $1,000 to fix a criminal case for one of his clients in 1985, two newspapers reported.

Michael Rich, a prosecutor convicted of racketeering, told two FBI agents and a federal prosecutor that Policy paid the money to help Tom O'Nesti, a close friend of mobster Joseph Naples, according to The Plain Dealer and The (Youngstown) Vindicator.

``That's absurd. That's below absurd,'' Policy told The Plain Dealer. ``You have a piece of lice throwing names around and that's not fair. I don't even recall representing Tom O'Nesti. I knew it was only a matter of time before someone would start pointing fingers at people who lived there and went on to become someone.''

Policy was a defense attorney in Youngstown in the 1980s. A message seeking comment from him was left Wednesday.

The newspapers cited an FBI report that was part of court documents filed Tuesday for a separate case in in Youngstown.

Rich has been a government witness since he pleaded guilty to a federal racketeering charge in 1998.

Rich, an assistant Mahoning County prosecutor at the time, recommended to a judge that O'Nesti receive probation for a charge of receiving stolen property, according to a 1997 report written by FBI agent Robert Kroner.

Kroner's report stated that Rich told him he received the money during a party at Policy's home attended by Edward Flask Jr., Policy's law partner at the time, and Edward DeBartolo Jr., who was owner of the San Francisco 49ers and at one time Policy's best friend.

The report was obtained from the newspapers by attorney Sherman Miles, who is representing a police officer from the Youngstown suburb of Campbell in a lawsuit against Rich and former Youngstown mob boss Lenine Strollo.

The lawsuit contends that Strollo and Rich, who was law director and prosecutor for Campbell, conspired to fix a civil service test given for the police chief's position in 1994.

Miles refused to tell the newspapers how he obtained the report.

Messages were left Wednesday for Miles and FBI spokesman Bob Hawk.

Kroner's report also includes allegations by Rich that Policy told him he gave money to then-Mahoning County prosecutor Gary Van Brocklin to fix O'Nesti's case.

A message seeking comment was left with a woman who answered the phone at Van Brocklin's residence.

Policy was named legal counsel for the 49ers in 1983 but maintained his Youngstown practice. He became team president in 1991.

He resigned from the 49ers in July 1998 and teamed with billionaire Al Lerner in a bid to own the expansion Cleveland Browns.