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YOUNGSTOWN Batcho gets 10 years in slaying



Published: Wed, January 16, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The term will be consecutive to an 18-year sentence Batcho is already serving, the judge said.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Lawrence Sisman was killed for money and because he was associated with former mob boss Lenny Strollo's rival, Ernie Biondillo, authorities said Tuesday.

Mark A. Batcho, 35, of Campbell was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for killing the 66-year-old Boardman businessman, who was a partner in the Coitsville bar Palace In the Pines. He was shot in March 1996.

About $3,000 was taken from Sisman during the 1996 shooting, said special prosecutor Robert Smith of the Ohio Attorney General's organized crime unit.

Gains shooting: Batcho was the hitman hired by Strollo and his underlings to carry out shootings of Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains and Atty. Gary Van Brocklin. Gains was shot in December 1996, just before he took office. Van Brocklin was shot in his downtown law office in April 1996.

Batcho pleaded guilty two weeks ago to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. An admission to the Sisman killing was included in the plea language, Smith said.

Charges dismissed: As part of the plea agreement, charges of aggravated murder, murder and aggravated robbery were dismissed.

The 10-year term will be served consecutively to the 18-year sentence Batcho is serving for trying to kill Gains and shooting Van Brocklin in the leg.

Over Smith's objection, visiting Judge Stephen Yarbrough gave Batcho credit for 16 months he's already served in the Mahoning County Jail awaiting trial on the charges.

"He's entitled to those 16 months because that's what the law provides," Judge Yarbrough said.

Batcho's lawyer, Mark Stanton of Cleveland, was angered that Smith opposed the 16-month credit. He said prosecutors used Batcho as a pawn in all their other cases, promised him protection in the Sisman case, then tried to use Batcho's own words against him.

"They relied on him to help convict others and then they stuck it right up his rear end," he said.

Admission: While testifying as a prosecution witness in the May 1999 trial against convicted mob figure Bernie Altschuler, Batcho admitted killing Sisman.

Prosecutors planned to use that testimony against him to prove the murder charges.

But Stanton objected, saying that violated the spirit of an agreement Batcho had made with prosecutors. In the agreement, prosecutors promised that statements Batcho made to law enforcement officials would not be used against him in the Sisman murder.

Judge Yarbrough agreed and banned use of the testimony, which is partly why the state opted for the plea agreement. There were also problems with some of the witnesses, Smith said.

Smith said he was always upfront with Batcho and his attorneys about the state's plan to pursue the Sisman case and use the testimony against him.

Judge Yarbrough also said that prosecutors acted "properly and ethically" throughout the case.

bjackson@vindy.com




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