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Prosecutor keeps abreast of fraud case



Published: Fri, May 31, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The county prosecutor said he is not trying to control his assistant.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- No further charges will be filed in the Mahoning County election fraud investigation unless Prosecutor Paul J. Gains gives the go-ahead.

In a letter sent to Kenneth Cardinal, the assistant county prosecutor who is handling the investigation, Gains wrote: "It would be deeply appreciated if you would forward a copy of your entire file on the election fraud currently in your possession. In addition, please hold off on filing any additional charges until I have reviewed your files and given you permission to do so."

Gains said he is not trying to control Cardinal, but Gains wants to make sure everything is done correctly and that he is kept abreast of the investigation's progress.

"I want my prosecutors to be prosecutors. Kenny is a good lawyer. He's like a bulldog. That's why I had him do it. No one can question Kenny's politics," Gains said.

Gains said he is more familiar with election law than Cardinal, however, so he wants to review the investigation's findings before charges are filed.

Gains said in some criminal cases, he reviews charges before they are filed. He wants to do that in the future on the election fraud investigation "because of all the political overtones."

"My involvement is I told Kenny if charges are filed, I want to make sure we have a provable case."

Areas of concern

Gains said there have been other areas of concern that have caused him to insist on playing a more active role in the investigation:

U Questions about Mahoning County Court in Austintown being the proper venue for two cases of election fraud recently filed. The attorneys for the two former Republican candidates charged with felonies for giving false addresses to the board of elections say if any crimes were committed, it occurred in Youngstown, and that city's municipal court has the proper jurisdiction. The attorneys are seeking the dismissal of the cases because of the venue.

U The investigation of Atty. David Betras' representation of Republican precinct committee candidates during a March 14 elections board hearing to consider their removal from the ballot. Complaints were filed about the legitimacy of their signatures on declarations of candidacy or that they were not eligible to run because they were registered Democrats.

Four of Betras' clients told election board officials before the hearing that they never agreed to have the attorney represent them, and three of them withdrew as candidates. Gains said there have been rumors that Betras committed crimes, which is completely false.

"I have told [Cardinal] that I don't want people charged unless there is a crime," said Gains, who added Cardinal agrees with him that Betras did nothing illegal.

Cardinal could not be reached Thursday to comment. But when asked Wednesday about what directives Gains has given him regarding the investigation, Cardinal only said, "I serve at the pleasure of Paul Gains."

Two former Republican candidates were arrested on charges of election falsification and election fraud and a warrant was issued for the arrest of a third former candidate.

Two of the former candidates were running under the banner of the Republicans for Real Reform, a political movement that unsuccessfully tried to take over the Mahoning County Republican Party.

Cardinal has said Mark A. Hanni, who founded the Real Reform group, was not suspected of violating any elections laws.

skolnick@vindy.com




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