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The bumbling hitman gets away with murder



Published: Fri, January 4, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Mark Batcho, the hitman from the gang that couldn't shoot straight, leads a charmed a life for such a bumbling felon.

Batcho, is a guy who's been charged with stabbing people, shooting people and beating people. He was such a disruptive prisoner that he was shipped from county jail to state prison last year while awaiting trial.

He pleaded guilty to shooting and wounding then prosecutor-elect Paul Gains to try to keep him from taking office and to wounding Gary Van Brocklin, a lawyer and former prosecutor, for no other reason than to win a continuance in the trial of an associate.

And now, due to a judge's strict interpretation of the Fifth Amendment -- not that there's anything wrong with strict interpretation of the Constitution -- Batcho is going to get away with murder.

Plea agreement: Batcho, 35, pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, for which he faces a mandatory 10-year prison term. We can only hope it runs consecutive to the 18 years he's serving for shooting Gains.

And what was his "corrupt activity?' By his own admission, he shot and killed Larry Sisman, 66, part owner of the Palace In the Pines, a Coitsville bar. Unfortunately his admission was made during his testimony as a government snitch in the Mahoning Valley corruption trial.

Visiting Judge Stephen A. Yarbrough of Toledo ruled that prosecutors from the Ohio attorney general's office had to honor an agreement reached between Batcho and investigators that statements he gave them could not be used against him in the Sisman case. That weakened the state's case and led to the plea agreement.

We suppose that in the bigger picture, Batcho's testimony, which helped put mobsters and crooked politicians behind bars, served society more than his possible conviction on a murder charge. And it's not as if he'll be walking free anytime soon. Still, such legal fine points probably aren't much consolation to the people who knew and loved Larry Sisman.




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