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YOUNGSTOWN Cops' lawyers seek separate trials



Published: Tue, September 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The officers have antagonistic defenses, according to court documents.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- One of two Youngstown police officers charged with robbing a Struthers man in the restroom of a Market Street bar in March wants his own day in court.

Attorneys for 32-year-old Christopher Lombard filed a motion asking Judge James C. Evans of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to separate his trial from that of Mark L. Rakocy, also a city policeman.

Indictment: Lombard and Rakocy, 34, were indicted by a county grand jury in April on charges of robbery. They are scheduled go to on trial together Oct. 3.

Assistant Prosecutor Jay Macejko said he does not expect the trial to go forward because he will be involved in a death-penalty murder case in another courtroom so will be unavailable for several weeks.

A ruling has not been made to postpone the trial date.

Lombard's attorneys said in court documents that the officers have "antagonistic defenses" because witnesses have pegged Rakocy as the perpetrator of the crime. They fear that Lombard's case will be harmed by trying the two together.

Cross-examining: If they are tried together and Rakocy refuses to take the witness stand, Lombard's lawyers would not have an opportunity to cross-examine him, court documents say.

Under Ohio law, criminal defendants are not required to testify during their own trial.

"I think the evidence in both cases is jaded and tainted," said Atty. Steven M. Goldberg of Canfield, one of three lawyers representing Lombard. He expects both to be vindicated in the end, but declined to comment further.

A hearing has not been set for Judge Evans to hear arguments on the request to separate the trials, but Macejko said he will oppose it.

"From my position they should be tried together," Macejko said. "We'll use the same evidence, the same witnesses and the same arguments. There is no reason to duplicate everything."

Atty. Dennis DiMartino, who represents Rakocy, was not aware of Lombard's request and declined to comment.

Report: Authorities said Rakocy and Lombard pushed the victim against a wall in the restroom of the Pulse bar on Market Street, put him in a headlock and took $480 out of his pants pocket. They were off-duty at the time.

They face one to five years in prison and a fine up to $10,000 if convicted.

bjackson@vindy.com




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