YOUNGSTOWN Trial begins for cops accused of robbery
The officers are not fired, but they aren't allowed to work and aren't being paid.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Jury selection began Monday in the trial of two Youngstown policemen accused of stealing money from a Struthers man in a bar last year. Mark L. Rakocy, 34, of Cordova Avenue, and Christopher Lombard, 33, of Gypsy Lane, are each charged with one count of robbery.
Opening statements and testimony were expected to begin today in the courtroom of Judge James C. Evans.
They are accused of taking $480 from the victim in the restroom of the Pulse bar on Market Street in March. Police say they pushed the man against a wall, put him in a headlock and took the money from his pants pocket. Rakocy and Lombard were off-duty at the time and are not believed to have identified themselves as police officers.
Suspended from jobs: Police Chief Richard Lewis said they have not been terminated but have been "relieved of duty" without pay, pending the outcome of the trial. They can't work because Ohio law doesn't allow people under criminal indictment to possess firearms.
The men were indicted by a county grand jury in April. If they are convicted of robbery, a third-degree felony, they face one to five years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
In September, Lombard's attorneys filed a motion asking Judge James C. Evans to separate his trial from Rakocy's. They said the defendants have "antagonistic defenses" because witnesses have pegged Rakocy as the perpetrator of the crime, and they feared that Lombard's case would be harmed by trying the two together.
The attorneys withdrew that request last week, though, and decided to move ahead with the combined trial.