YOUNGSTOWN 2 cops facing robbery trial
Defense lawyers told jurors that the alleged assault never took place.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- No one disputes that a case involving Youngstown policemen Mark Rakocy and Christopher Lombard is fraught with lies and deceit.
Each side says the other is lying about what happened in the men's restroom of an Uptown bar last spring.
Rakocy, 34, of Cordova Avenue, and Lombard, 33, of Gypsy Lane, are on trial in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, charged with robbery. Opening statements were Tuesday in the courtroom of Judge James C. Evans.
Assistant Prosecutor Jay Macejko said the off-duty cops targeted Thomas Cole of Struthers after they saw him flash a wad of money while he was buying a round of drinks for friends at the Pulse bar in March 2001.
What's alleged: He said they followed him into the men's room, pinned him against a wall and emptied his pockets of $480, a cellular phone and other personal items. Cole had so much money because he'd just gotten paid and planned to travel to Columbus to visit his girlfriend, Macejko said.
Cole became angry and began to resist, Macejko said. During the ensuing brawl, all three men tumbled out of the restroom into the bar, where the fight was broken up and Cole was tossed out by a bouncer.
Macejko told jurors that Rakocy came out of the restroom and told bar patrons that Cole was a drug dealer.
"He did that because he had to explain that fight," Macejko said.
Charges denied: Lombard's attorney, Steven Goldberg, denied that the assault took place. He said Cole tried to pick a fight with Lombard, but that Lombard merely laughed and walked away.
"Chris Lombard never laid a hand on Tommy Cole," Goldberg said. "It never happened."
He said prosecutors have built their case on "wretched talk from wretched people and just plain garbage."
He said Cole's initial complaint to police was that he was assaulted by Rakocy and made no mention of being robbed. When the robbery was finally addressed, the amount of money allegedly taken was first reported as $350, then later changed to $480, he said.
"This case is replete with twists and turns and changes of stories," said Atty. Dennis DiMartino, who represents Rakocy. He said the idea that two policemen would roust Cole "simply defies logic, believability, credibility and common sense."
If the officers are convicted, they could face one to five years in prison.