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COLUMBIANA CO. Portage lawyer to handle case



Published: Thu, May 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The lawyer tapped for the assignment has plenty of trial experience, the county prosecutor says.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

LISBON -- An assistant Portage County prosecutor will handle charges expected to arise from the theft of cash several weeks ago from the Columbiana County Drug Task Force.

Judge David Tobin of Columbiana County Common Pleas Court agreed Wednesday to appoint Eugene Muldowney as special prosecutor.

County Prosecutor Robert Herron requested Muldowney's appointment because Herron said he would have conflicts of interest prosecuting the case.

Witness in case: Herron noted that he is a witness in the crime because the suspect in the theft returned most of the stolen money to him March 14. That was several days after it was reported to have been taken from task force headquarters along state Route 45 in Center Township.

Herron also said he is on the task force's control board.

"I don't want there to be any appearance of impropriety," which could arise if he were to prosecute the case, Herron said.

Muldowney was asked to serve as special prosecutor because he has extensive criminal trial experience, Herron said.

Muldowney, who was unavailable to comment, will not be paid for his service to the county. But he will be reimbursed for expenses, Herron said.

Few details emerge: He declined to say how soon he expects charges to be filed in the theft.

That will be up to the special prosecutor, as well as whether additional investigation of the crime is necessary, Herron said.

He declined to elaborate on the case itself. County officials have repeatedly refused to provide details on the case, such as a motive, how much was stolen and whether the suspect in the case is a drug task force member.

Divulging details could jeopardize the case, Herron has said.

The six-member task force consists of officers from police departments in East Liverpool, Columbiana, East Palestine, Washingtonville, Lisbon and Salineville.

leigh@vindy.com




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