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YOUNGSTOWN Closing arguments to come in cops' trial



Published: Sat, January 26, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Jurors could begin deliberating Monday morning.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Testimony ended Friday in the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court trial of Youngstown police officers Mark Rakocy and Christopher Lombard.

They are accused of roughing up Thomas Cole of Struthers in the restroom of the Pulse bar on Market Street in March 2001 and stealing nearly $500 in the process. Both are charged with robbery.

After brief testimony from two defense witnesses, Judge James C. Evans dismissed jurors for the weekend. Lawyers will make closing arguments Monday morning, after which jurors will begin deliberating.

Rakocy, 34, of Cordova Avenue, and Lombard, 33, of Gypsy Lane, could be sentenced to one to five years in prison if they are convicted. They are suspended without pay.

What Cole said: Cole testified during the trial that the officers, who were off-duty, followed him into the men's room shortly before the bar closed around 2:30 a.m. March 31. One held him against a wall while the other went through his pockets, he said.

Most of the items removed from his pockets were put in a sink, but the money was not, he said.

Defense witnesses Roderick Dixon of Boardman and Mike Quinn of Campbell, both bouncers at the Pulse, testified Friday that Cole told them he'd lost his money and other belongings, but never mentioned being robbed.

Dixon and Quinn were the only witnesses for the defense. Rakocy and Lombard did not take the witness stand.

Detective Sgt. Charles Guzzy of YPD's internal affairs division testified during the trial that some 30 witnesses were interviewed by IA before the department decided to pursue criminal charges based on a complaint filed by Cole.

Defense action: Defense attorneys Dennis DiMartino and Stephen Goldberg countered by attacking the credibility of a photographic array police used in obtaining identifications of Rakocy and Lombard.

They also criticized the internal affairs division for not investigating the defendants' contention that they were framed by drug dealers who held a grudge against them.

Steve Milliken, who said he's been friends with Rakocy for about four years, testified that Rakocy asked him to "watch" the men's room door. While Rakocy and Lombard were in the restroom, Milliken stood in the hallway stopping people from going in.

A short time later, Lombard, Rakocy and a third man came out of the restroom, arguing and fighting their way down a hallway toward the bar, Milliken said. He did not know who the third man was, but other witnesses said it was Cole.

Rakocy later thanked him for helping out, Milliken said, though he did not know what happened in the restroom.

bjackson@vindy.com




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