The public corruption trial of Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge begins on Thursday. He was indicted last fall on three third-degree felony counts of tampering with records, three fourth-degree felony counts of having an unlawful interest in a public contract, three misdemeanor counts of falsification and three misdemeanor counts of soliciting improper compensation.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office is handling the case.
“I was given the opportunity to retire and avoid prosecution, but I have committed no offense,” he said at the time of his indictment
. “I’d rather do it this way.”
At the heart of the case is the property at 600 Broadway Ave. in Lorain. For several months in 2011, Burge is confirmed to have an ownership stake in the building, which housed and continues to house various attorneys' offices. Burge was presiding over cases that involved some of those attorneys, according to the criminal allegations.
The Chronicle-Telegram assembled a detailed history of the charges
and the building at 600 Broadway, including this central series of events:
Burge and his wife, attorney Susan Burge, purchased 600 Broadway in 1985, but ownership transferred to the newly formed Whiteacre North Ltd. in 1997. At the time, the company was comprised of the Burges and fellow lawyers Sam Bradley and Michael Tully.
Bradley left the company in 2001, selling his share to Tully. The Burges and Tully reached a deal to sell the property to attorney Shimane Smith and his wife, Azuree Smith, in January 2007, just after Burge took office.
The deal called for the Smiths to pay off the remainder of the approximately $250,000 mortgage on the building and to pay the former owners of Whiteacre North $70,000 by January 2011.
But the Smiths defaulted on the payment, and control reverted to the Burges and Tully in February 2011.