After only eight months of his 18-month prison sentence, Frank Lordi, the former Mahoning County commissioner convicted of theft in office, is home. He apparently persuaded the Ohio Parole Board that his time behind bars had profoundly changed him.
The board released him on shock probation. But Lordi hadn't even taken his first breath of freedom before he reverted to his arrogant, bombastic self. The former commissioner insisted to reporters that he had done nothing wrong and would, therefore, continue the fight to clear his name. Lordi's refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing raises important questions about the system of shock probation.
We wonder if members of the parole board tried to determine whether Lordi's time in prison had affected his attitude toward the criminal justice system. Did anyone bother to ask him if he still believed that he was the target of a politically driven fraud probe?
Upon his release, Lordi told reporters that he spent much of his prison term praying and attending Bible studies and church services. Was that the basis for his early release? If it was, we are hard-pressed to understand how shock probation would apply to him.
We are reminded of Visiting Judge Mark Wiest's words when he sentenced the former commissioner: "The court believes theft in office is one of the most serious nonviolent offenses. It's a breach of public trust of the highest order."
Cover-up? Lordi was convicted in 1999 by a jury that found that while a commissioner he had county employees do political work on county time. The value of the time they spent doing the work was estimated at $200. He said then, as he says today, that there was a cover-up of information during his trial and subsequent appeals.
And he continues to accuse Atty. David Betras, who was the special prosecutor on the case, of misconduct.
Had Frank Lordi come out of prison showing the type of remorse that Judge Wiest had hoped for during the sentencing, we would have been inclined to be kinder and gentler. After all, compared to some of the other public officials who used their positions of power for personal gain and got away with a slap on the wrist, Lordi's 18-month sentence was harsh.
Thus, we weren't offended when we learned that he was to be released after only eight months. After all, there are individuals in our community who turned the criminal justice system into a playground for corrupt lawyers, judges and prosecutors who haven't spent a day in prison.
But once Lordi began yammering about being railroaded and vowing to take his fight to the federal appeals courts, any sympathy we might have had for him evaporated.
Now we wonder why he was granted shock probation. He obviously wasn't shocked into recognizing the error of his ways.