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MAHONING COUNTY Lawyer avoids jail for 2nd time



Published: Wed, May 23, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The dispute is over who has the right to broadcast on radio station WBTJ.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The first time Atty. Percy Squire locked horns with Judge R. Scott Krichbaum over violation of a court order, it took only an apology to keep him out of jail.

The second time he did it, only swift action by the 7th District Court of Appeals kept him from going to jail.

Judge Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court ruled Tuesday that Squire was in contempt of a court order issued in June 2000 and sentenced him to six days in the county jail.

Squire's attorney, Harry R. Reinhart of Columbus, immediately sought and received a stay of execution of the sentence from the court of appeals, after which Squire was released on his own recognizance.

It was the second time Squire ran afoul of Judge Krichbaum in a dispute over the right to broadcast radio programming on WBTJ-FM, 101.9.

Earlier run-in: Eight months ago, Squire was found in contempt of court and threatened with jail, but a last-minute apology satisfied the judge and kept him out of jail. He was fined $1,500.

Judge Krichbaum said he was dismayed that Squire continued to disregard his court order. When Squire chose to "cross swords" with him a second time, there had to be consequences, the judge said.

"This is a court. I'm the judge. He's a litigant," Judge Krichbaum said. "He doesn't get to decide what a court order does or doesn't mean. I do."

About the case: At issue is a lawsuit filed last year by Citicasters Co. of Boardman, an affiliate of Clearchannel Broadcasting, against Stop 26-Riverbend Inc., a company owned by Squire.

Citicasters signed an agreement to buy the station from Stop 26 for $2.7 million. It had paid $1.7 million toward the purchase and was allowed to begin broadcasting its own music format while the balance was being paid.

The agreement was in effect for several weeks until Stop 26 terminated the time brokerage agreement and resumed its old programming. Stop 26 eventually handed the controls back to Citicasters, but then reinstituted its old programming again in November 2000. That's the basis for the second contempt charge.

Switched programming: Squire admitted on the witness stand that he switched the programming himself, and said he did it to keep from losing his license with the Federal Communication Commission.

Squire, an independent candidate for Youngstown mayor in November, took the stand against the advice of his attorney.

Reinhart said the FCC requires the licensee to "maintain discretion" over programming. When that discretion is handed to a third party, like Citicasters, the FCC could view that as a violation of its rules and revoke the license.

"An FCC license is worth a lot of money," Reinhart said.

J. Michael Debbeler of Cincinnati, representing Citicasters, said Stop 26 has been broadcasting its old format on 101.9 since November. The company still has a breach-of-contract suit pending against Stop 26 in common pleas court.




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