P.G. Sittenfeld seeks mistrial after juror posted on Facebook during trial

CINCINNATI (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER) – A juror in the P.G. Sittenfeld trial made multiple posts on Facebook during his trial and then when questioned about it gave “spurious and inconsistent” testimony, Sittenfeld’s attorneys said Friday in court documents.

That juror’s posts, they say in the documents, show bias and call the verdicts into question, according to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The attorneys are seeking a forensic analysis of the juror’s electronic devices, noting time is of the essence since the posts have already been deleted. Prosecutors will have a chance to reply to the request. The judge will then make a determination.

In one post, the unnamed juror said another juror shouldn’t be on the panel because “she hates anyone that shares the same profession as our person on trial. Not cool!!”

The juror also criticized a second juror, saying the person: “Doesn’t know a comfortable silence. Kinda wish her tongue would fall out.”

Sittenfeld’s attorneys were told about the posts shortly before the verdicts were announced July 8 in federal court in Cincinnati, according to the documents. His attorneys asked for a mistrial, the documents say, but U.S. District Judge Douglas Cole denied that motion

That request for a mistrial apparently happened during a secret hearing in the judge’s chambers. Throughout the trial, jurors were repeatedly admonished not to look at news related to the case to protect them from possible bias.

One commenter, the documents say, appeared to try to warn the juror to stop posting on Facebook. The juror apparently gave her assigned juror number. She had posted: “Just call me juror [X] for a criminal case!”

Sittenfeld’s attorneys say the juror “left a trail of breadcrumbs to the specific case.”

The comments were all date-stamped during the trial and often included maps or Facebook check-ins showing the juror’s location at the federal courthouse Downtown.

The juror “clearly knew” that her commenters knew which case she was on, the documents say.

One commenter referenced an Instagram post from The Enquirer “about jury selection in a federal case today.”

Another person then posted: “Is this for that PG Sittenfeld guy?”

Sittenfeld was convicted of bribery and attempted extortion after a two-and-half-week trial. He was found not guilty on four other counts. No sentencing date has been set.

At the end of the trial, the documents filed Friday say, Cole gave “another extensive admonishment.”

“Juror X never spoke up. She was continually dishonest,” the documents say.

Portions of the documents are redacted, or blacked out, and the first reference to an “admonishment” is in a redacted section.

Immediately after the verdicts were announced, Cole held an in-chambers hearing, at which the juror who posted on Facebook and another juror testified. Cole ordered the juror to “preserve her electronic communications,” the documents say.

At some point after that hearing, the juror who posted on Facebook deleted her posts, the documents say.

Sittenfeld, a former Cincinnati city councilman was convicted of improperly seeking donations in 2018 from a former Bengal turned developer Chinedum Ndukwe, who was working to redevelop a blighted downtown property.

Sittenfeld was caught in an undercover FBI investigation, where much of what happened was recorded on video and audio.

The 12-member jury was selected from 11 mostly southwestern Ohio counties, including Hamilton County. The Enquirer sought their names and information, but they have not been made public.

Copyright 2022 Cincinnati Enquirer. All rights reserved.

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