The defense attorneys for alleged former lovers Donna Moonda and Damian R. Bradford agree that they don’t want Mrs. Moonda to be forced to assert her Fifth Amendment rights in front of a jury.
Bradford’s attorneys on Wednesday filed a motion that asks a federal judge to allow the widow of Dr. Gulam Moonda, 69, to invoke her privilege against self-incrimination outside the presence of the jury that will be seated Monday when Bradford’s trial is scheduled to begin in Akron.
The goal of the filing — to keep Mrs. Moonda off the witness stand — that Michael J. DeRiso and Patrick J. Thomassey submitted Wednesday is identical to the one Mrs. Moonda’s attorney, Niki Z. Schwartz, submitted a day earlier.
DeRiso argues that prosecutors theorize Mrs. Moonda, 47, of Hermitage, conspired with somebody to have her husband killed May 13, 2005, on the Ohio Turnpike.
Bradford, 25, is charged with interstate stalking and using a firearm during the crime that left Moonda dead.
“In essence, she (Mrs. Moonda) is an unindicted co-conspirator,” DeRiso wrote in his filing.
If Mrs. Moonda decides not to answer certain questions posed to her at Bradford’s trial, it will cripple Bradford’s defense, DeRiso claims.
“The impact of an unindicted co-conspirator asserting this privilege in front of the jury would be catastrophic to the Defendant (Bradford) and create an inference of guilt which is insurmountable and not how this privilege is meant to be used,” DeRiso said.
Schwartz on Tuesday asked Judge David D. Dowd Jr. to allow Mrs. Moonda not to testify at Bradford’s trial because he fears prosecutors will use her testimony to indict her in connection with the roadside slaying.
If Mrs. Moonda invokes her Fifth Amendment rights at Bradford’s trial before reporters, Schwartz said it will be “extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible” for her to receive a fair trial if she is indicted in her husband’s death.
Dowd last week ruled that Mrs. Moonda, a witness to her husband’s killing, is “obligated to testify in response to questions either by government counsel or defense counsel unless the answer to the specific question would tend to incriminate her and she, not her chosen counsel, must assert the privilege.”
Dowd held a conference call Wednesday with the lawyers, according to court records.
William J. Edwards, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland, said Dowd would not necessarily be obligated to issue a separate opinion in response to his ruling of last week.
Mrs. Moonda and her mother, Dorothy Smouse, are the only two eyewitnesses to the robbery and fatal shooting along the toll road, prosecutors said.
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