Akron Beacon-Journal

Gondor and Resh Leave Jail
New trials set for March, April

Beacon Journal staff writer
January 19, 2007

Randy Resh and Bob Gondor, who won new trials in the Ohio Supreme Court for a 1988 murder they insist they did not commit, were granted bond Friday during separate hearings at the Portage County Courthouse.

Gondor was the first to be released from the county jail at 1:15 p.m. in a remarkably poignant day that was not without its difficulties.

After posting a $10,000 cash bond set by Common Pleas Judge John A. Enlow, Gondor walked out of a secure area inside the jail, stepped into the lobby with a broad smile and embraced his mother, Julia Farago of Barberton.

But Resh, who was given the option of a $250,000 property or surety bond by Judge Laurie J. Pittman in the first hearing, was not released until early evening.

His lawyers had encountered problems showing two family homes in Mantua had a combined value of double the bond, ($500,000) -- a situation not resolved until Gondor's brother, Jim, pledged the Mantua home of their late father.

The finishing touches on that paperwork were done just minutes before the clerk's office closed, avoiding another weekend behind bars for Resh.

``We just got it in,'' Jim Gondor said.

Bob Gondor will be staying at that home as he awaits a new trial. His trial was scheduled for April 18. Resh's was scheduled for March 27.

Resh, 43, and Gondor, 42, were tried separately and convicted of participating in the August 1988 kidnapping, attempted rape and murder of Connie Nardi, 31, of Randolph Township.

However, after years of appellate proceedings, the Supreme Court vacated their convictions in a unanimous decision on Dec. 26 and ordered new trials based on ineffective defense lawyers.

Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, who authored the 23-page high court opinion, cited four categories of potentially exonerating evidence that the trial lawyers never used.

``Without the benefit of that evidence,'' Pfeifer wrote, ``this Court finds that the verdicts are not worthy of confidence.''

It was the same finding -- ``not worthy of confidence'' -- that visiting Judge Charles J. Bannon used in July 2002 when he issued the first orders for new trials.

And when Gondor finally walked out of the jail -- free for the first time in more than 16 years -- he referred to those findings in his first comments to reporters waiting for him in the jail lobby.

Finally, asked by a television reporter if he killed Nardi, Gondor replied firmly: ``No.'' He said he was innocent. And he said his lifelong friend, Resh, was likewise innocent.

``We did not participate,'' Gondor said, ``in any way, shape or form in the death of Connie Nardi. And that will come out in the second trial.''

Moments later, Gondor and his mother, stepfather, brother and several friends walked out into the heavy snowfall and drove straight to his father's home.

Gondor had said in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling that the first thing he planned to do if he was released would be to visit his father's grave at Westlawn Cemetery in Mantua. His father, a machinist until he was incapacitated in an auto accident in 1997, died in 2002, four months before Bannon issued his new trial orders.

But that plan was put on hold.

``The bond conditions were straight home, so we decided it would be more prudent if we just went home,'' Gondor said Friday night.

When he arrived, he said, he went immediately to the back yard and stood there for about five minutes, trying to remember things he last saw when he was in his 20s.

``Things have changed. Everything looks smaller now,'' Gondor said. ``I guess a lot has changed.''

The remarkable day -- supporters wore orange ribbons, filled both courtroom seating sections to capacity and spilled into the hallways -- began with Resh walking into Pittman's court shortly before 9 a.m. He was wearing orange-striped county jail clothes, shackled at the wrists and ankles.

Assistant Portage County Prosecutor Thomas R. Buchanan had the first say. He asked Pittman for a $1 million cash bond, saying Resh posed a danger to the community and was more of a flight risk now than before his original trials.

Now that Resh knows the ``weight of evidence'' the state has compiled against him, Buchanan reasoned, the risk of his running away is far greater.

But in short order, Pittman went against the prosecution's recommendations, set Resh's trial date and a hearing date sometime next week to consider a defense motion to consolidate both trials.

``There is no reason for (further) delay,'' Pittman told the packed courtroom. ``That would be unjust.''

Buchanan, who strongly objected to Resh's defense lawyer's trying to rebut the evidence that Buchanan said the state had compiled, followed the same pattern at Gondor's hearing, also asking for a $1 million cash bond for him.

But unlike his tone at Resh's hearing, Buchanan appeared more subdued as he repeated his arguments.

In Enlow's court, there were nearly 60 in attendance, including about 10 Portage County lawyers and courtroom personnel allowed to stand in the rear of the courtroom.

Afterward, Jim Gondor fought back tears as he tried to describe his feelings driving into town from his Florida home Thursday night.

There was no gloating.

``We're preparing. We're ready to go forward,'' he said.

But perhaps the most touching moment of the day occurred as Resh left the courtroom escorted by sheriff's deputies. There were more than 40 supporters in the gallery. Many were waving to him, and someone said: ``See you at home, Randy.''

Mike Resh said after the hearing that his brother will be living at their parents' home, a ranch-style residence on two acres in Mantua.

He dismissed the notion that his brother would run away.

``He's never flinched from his innocence,'' Mike Resh said. ``For 16 years, he's fought for this moment. He isn't going anywhere.''

Under terms of both bonds, Resh and Gondor must remain under house arrest with electronic monitoring and have no contact with the victim's family.

Efforts to contact Nardi's ex-husband, Michael N. Nardi, have been unsuccessful.

Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
Innocent Imprisoned

Truth in Justice