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YOUNGSTOWN Mistakes keep man from stiffer sentence



Published: Wed, July 11, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A prosecutor called it 'clearly a combination of errors.'

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Thanks to a combination of errors, Waddell L. Casey didn't have to go to jail, pay a mandatory $600 fine or kiss his car's sound equipment goodbye.

The third-time loud-music offender left Magistrate Anthony J. Sertick's courtroom July 2 with only a $50 fine. Sertick even waived a $50 fee that the 24-year-old Campbell man could have been charged because he failed to show in court when due and had to be arrested again.

City Prosecutor Dionne Almasy said Tuesday that her assistant prosecutor, John A. Regginello, should have reviewed Casey's record before the case was called in Sertick's court and known about the man's two prior convictions. The clerk of court computer is available to all prosecutors, and printouts can be made in seconds.

Avoided consequences: Had Regginello prepared for the case, he would have known Casey's third loud-music conviction meant up to 60 days in jail, a mandatory $600 fine and mandatory forfeiture of the vehicle's sound equipment. Regginello will be more diligent in future, she said.

Sertick treated Casey's loud-music charge as a first offense, which, as a minor misdemeanor, carries a fine only of $50 to $250. Sertick could not be reached.

"My prosecutor missed it, but it seems as if the court [Sertick] was remiss as well," Almasy said. "It was clearly a combination of errors."

Almasy said a magistrate has a responsibility to inquire about a defendant's record and review and question any plea agreement reached between the defense and prosecution.

To compound the mix-up, Judge Robert P. Milich wrote on the file at Casey's arraignment that the case should be assigned to a magistrate. Laura McLaughlin, court administrator, said the assignment office has been instructed to schedule only minor misdemeanors cases with Sertick.

As a magistrate, Sertick cannot sentence people to jail. He can, however, recommend a sentence for a judge to consider, but that didn't happen in Casey's situation.

Casey's file shows that he pleaded innocent after his arrest April 7 and was due back in court on May 2. When Casey failed to show, Sertick asked that a warrant, commonly called a capias, be issued.

Municipal Judge Elizabeth A. Kobly issued the warrant May 4 and police re-arrested Casey on June 15. In the interim, the clerk of court office listed Casey's driver's license as forfeited because the capias had been in effect more than 30 days.

There's no indication in court records that Casey paid the $15 fee required to reinstate his license.

Past offenses: In 1999, Casey was charged with loud music in April and again in August.

Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr. fined Casey $200 on each conviction, but gave no jail time. It wasn't until last year that the judges, through Judge Douglas, became aware that jail time applied to not just the third, but second offenses as well.

There is a note in Casey's file that the stereo and speakers were to be forfeited in 1999, but there's no record to show that he turned over the sound equipment to the court.

The city's loud-music ordinance was revamped in February to add a 50-foot distance at which the sound can be heard by police. The revised ordinance also eliminated the mandatory three days in jail for third and subsequent offenses.

This summer, as with last, loud music from vehicles remains the No. 1 complaint to police from residents, especially those on the South Side.

meade@vindy.com




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