YOUNGSTOWN Jail releases wrong inmate
The suspect was free less than two hours before being taken back to jail.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- It wasn't the Avon lady knocking on Jose Rivera's door Friday afternoon.
It was a crew of deputy sheriffs who had come to take him back to the county jail, where he is awaiting trial on a charge of aggravated murder.
Now Judge James C. Evans of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court wants to know how Rivera got out in the first place. He's planning to meet next week with Sheriff Randall Wellington, Prosecutor Paul Gains and Clerk of Courts Anthony Vivo.
"I don't understand this. I think it needs a further inquiry by somebody," the judge said.
Rivera, 23, of Grandview Avenue, is one of two people charged in connection with the January shooting death of 24-year-old Angela Loibl of Austintown. The other is LaTawon Townsend, 20, of South Garland Avenue, also charged with aggravated murder.
The case is set for trial later this summer. Rivera was being kept in jail on a $250,000 bond in the meantime.
Judge Evans said an order was sent to the jail Friday to release a woman who was being held as a material witness in Rivera's case. The paperwork had Rivera's name at the top because it's his case. The woman's name was written beside Rivera's.
When the paperwork got to the jail, deputies saw Rivera's name at the top and figured he was supposed to be let go, said Sheriff Randall Wellington. They figured the name beside Rivera's was simply an alias.
Returned to jail
Rivera's lawyer, Anthony Meranto, said he got a frantic telephone call from Rivera's aunt when Rivera showed up at home. Meranto in turn spoke with prosecutors, and Rivera was picked up less than two hours after his release.
The woman who should have been let go was not released until after Rivera was returned to jail, Judge Evans said. He was outraged that such a mistake happened in the first place.
"This is a man charged with aggravated murder, not some small-time thief," he said. "Everybody's got to read the paperwork that's put in front of them and apply some common sense."
Wellington said the problem was in the way the release order was prepared, but Judge Evans and Vivo disagreed. Vivo said that it was done according to standard procedure and that if deputies had a question, they should have called his office.
"How do you release a suspected murderer on a $10,000 signature bond?" Vivo said. "If he's putting the blame on us, then I'm disappointed in him."
Gains agreed that the paperwork was confusing but said all involved officials must figure out how to keep the mistake from happening again.