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Some wheels of justice move more slowly than others



Published: Sat, August 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Sometimes the wheels of justice seem to move with inordinate slowness.

We're not calling for a rush to justice, we'd just like to see things move along a bit more quickly sometimes, especially when public offices and public officials are involved.

Nothing new: We voiced complaints years ago as federal investigators worked their way painstakingly through the web of corruption they were investigating in the Mahoning Valley.

In more than one case, a judge continued to sit on the bench for months after there was testimony in open court or facts were presented in court filings attesting to that judge's corruption. Federal investigators have their own timetable, however, and they were not going to be hurried by pressure from the press or the public or even by the fact that a demonstrably corrupt judge was still on the bench.

In the end, however, the feds got their men, and we've come to understand the delay, even if we haven't come to agree with it.

Local investigators, too, sometimes seem to pursue their investigations at an almost glacial pace.

In Columbiana County, the sheriff's department and the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation have been working nearly six months on a case involving money that disappeared from the Columbiana County Drug Task Force.

Everyone involved says this is still an active investigation and that someone is going to face criminal charges.

That's sounds fine, but in the meantime the public is left with a feeling that someone in a position of trust has betrayed that trust.

The natural question is: What's taking so long? And the natural fear is that in the end, no one will be brought to justice.

It happens: We saw just that in Mahoning County a couple of years ago in a case that sparked a lot of public indignation at the time, but then just faded away.

During the tenure of Sheriff Phil Chance there was massive abuse of cell phone use in the department, with records showing that during one month someone in the department used a cell phone to make personal phone calls totaling 32 hours to the same business. That would seem to indicate that someone frittered away a working day each week on personal calls, which we thought rose to the level of theft of service. Others have been charged for stealing less than four days' pay.

That was two years ago. And while the new administration did enact policies to avoid such abuse in the future, no one ever faced charges.

The case in Columbiana County is more clear-cut. Money, not time, is missing. And it's only been five months since the investigation began.

We're willing to live with the assurances that have been given that justice will be done. We just thought we'd point out the dangers of allowing a case to languish for too long.




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