Overview of Dawn Pasela
Dawn Pasela always had a hunger for the truth, and was a fierce advocate for justice.
But, when Dawn found herself wrapped up in a case with prosecutorial misconduct, did individuals around her with power take their threats too far?
Born in 1985 to loving parents Edward “Ed” and Karen Pasela, Dawn’s personality as a rebellious and high-spirited little girl evolved quickly.
Both Ed and Karen shared with Uncovered that when Dawn was a young girl, you could tell her the sky was blue, and she’d tell you that it was pink — just because she could. Her curious nature was there from the start, as Ed shared with Uncovered, “She questioned everything. If we told her to do something, she didn’t mind doing it, but she wanted to know why, the reason behind us telling her to do something. She was very analytical.”
Dawn was always surrounded by friends, even as a kid.
Karen told Uncovered, “I don’t think we had a weekend where we didn’t have someone sleeping over.”
Dawn was such a leader, that she sometimes got her friends roped in to push authoritarian buttons together.
Dawn was homeschooled and part of a group that had a fairly strict dress code. The girls, pre-teens at the time, were expected to wear dark blue pants and a white blouse. One day, Ed and Karen told Uncovered that Dawn got all her friends together, and they spent the afternoon on the phone calling Dillard’s, Macy’s, and Victoria's Secret stores in the area, looking for bras that were really bright to peek through the white shirt.
Even though she liked to push buttons with authority, Dawn knew when to respect teachers and excel in her academics.
In college, Dawn graduated at the top of her class at both Cleveland State and at Cuyahoga County Community College, where she was President and founder of Phi Theta Kapa, a member of the National Honor Society’s Dean’s List and an important participant in the Criminal Justice Club.
Her desire to snuff out injustice and help people only grew as she got older.
After graduating, Dawn was hired in 2009 by Prosecutors Dan Kasaris and Mark Bennett to serve as Office Manager of a multi-jurisdictional Mortgage Fraud Task Force.
When she wasn’t at work, Dawn was an avid volunteer with multiple groups, namely a disabled children’s sports group and a food kitchen. On her lunch hour, she’d go to the local mall, buy roses, and pass them out to people who she thought needed them.
Her family had no idea of this generosity. They learned about it for the first time from people who came to Dawn’s funeral.
Everything changed when Dawn was ordered to engage in less-than-ethical business for the prosecutors in 2009.
Rather than admit a mistake and dismiss a 2008 case against real estate broker Anthony Viola, Kasaris directed Dawn to go to a “Free Tony Viola” event and pose as a graduate student. While there, she was told to record conversations with Viola so prosecutors could obtain confidential defense trial strategy information about upcoming trials.
Kasaris and Bennett also had Dawn write a check for Viola's legal defense fund so prosecutors could then use her canceled check to identify the law firm's bank account and Viola's supporters.
Individuals who assisted Viola’s defense or offered to testify as defense were then threatened with prosecution if they continued to assist Viola.
Dawn was told that her job would be jeopardized if she didn’t follow through with this.
Things started to become more troubling in 2009 through 2011.
While working as the office manager, Dawn realized files were being taken and not returned while others were forging her signature to take out documents. At the same time, Dawn continued to gain evidence on Viola, only to realize that the prosecutors were withholding exculpatory evidence against Viola.
In other words, the prosecutors had information that would’ve proven Viola’s innocence, but hid it to cover their mistakes and keep him imprisoned.
Dawn knew this wasn’t okay, and set out to right the wrong.
She contacted Viola herself, and gave him the evidence that he was missing and offered to testify at his second trial about the prosecutorial misconduct. Because of this new information, Dawn is subpoenaed on March 21, 2012 for Tony’s upcoming trial.
Her bosses, Kasaris and Bennett, got wind of this, and began threatening Dawn that she’d go to federal prison if she appeared in court against them — claiming Dawn was breaking a “confidentiality agreement” that she never signed. The threats got worse, and Dawn was terrified of their power. Kasaris even went as far as to intimidate Dawn’s parents, showing up at their home and claiming they wanted to search for computers and hard drives. Ed told them they would need to return with a warrant. They never did.
Dawn was filled with fear. She began to drink excessively, and eventually left her apartment to stay with her parents for roughly two weeks because she didn’t feel safe. She was even parking her car in her parent’s garage for fear of being spotted if her car was parked along the street.
Thankfully, after spending time with her parents, she felt more confident, and left to go back to her own apartment.
Days later, things took a turn for the worse.
Just as Dawn was scheduled to testify against the prosecutors, Dawn was found dead in her apartment following a welfare check her father ordered. Strangely, six officers arrived on the scene, and when Dawn’s body was discovered, no one in her family was allowed to identify her.
Her passing was initially attributed to an alcohol overdose with a blood-alcohol content of .59, but since the police failed to investigate or look at the surrounding circumstances, suspicions of foul play have never been seen through by law enforcement.
This has left Dawn’s family and friends not only heartbroken, but distraught at the circumstances — and looking for the public’s help.
In 2023, newly discovered evidence places Senior Assistant Ohio Attorney General at Dawn’s apartment shortly before her death, while the Medical Examiner will consider “new evidence” about Dawn’s death. Tony Viola and Dawn’s family are working relentlessly to get justice for Dawn.
If you have information or know anything about the death of Dawn Pasela, please contact Bob Friedrick at (440) 546- 8393 or [email protected], or Tony Viola at (330) 998-3290 or [email protected]