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GIRARD Judge sets deadline for gun list



Published: Thu, September 19, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The case involved a man who contended the FBI hired him to investigate Traficant.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- Municipal Judge Michael A. Bernard has given city police officers and a federal agent two weeks to provide a list of guns seized or show why they shouldn't be held in contempt.

The contempt hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, but Judge Bernard continued it after the attorney for the police said the list will be turned over to the defense attorney.

The case concerns 46 guns confiscated from James Kerchum, a former activist and organizer of Trumbull County Civilian Oversight Commission.

Some of the guns were found in April 1999 in Kerchum's home in Girard, where he lived at the time. Others were removed from the house of Michael A. Visnick of Warren, who was stopped after police chased him down.

In April 2000, Kerchum, 43, now of Warren Township, pleaded guilty to two weapons violations in federal court in Youngstown and was sentenced to six months' house arrest.

On July 8, Judge Bernard issued an order directing police to produce a statement identifying the guns that belong to Kerchum. The judge issued the order at the request of Kerchum's lawyer, Albert A. Palombaro of Youngstown.

Among those named in the order are Police Chief John Ross and Dennis MacAllister, an agent with the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

City police ordered to appear in court were Capts. Frank Bigowsky and Dominic Petrarca, Detective John Norman and Patrol Officers Greg Manente, Ron Schnarrs and Chris O'Brien.

About the guns

Speaking for the police, Atty. J. Gerald Ingram of Youngstown told the court that a complete list of the firearms will be turned over to Palombaro.

Ingram told the court he could not provide a list of firearms that may have been involved in crimes.

Palombaro said the firearms can't be returned to Kerchum because he's a felon.

Palombaro told the judge he will sell the guns and give the money to Kerchum, who received many of them from his grandfather.

Prosecutor Robert Johnson said the difficulty in gathering information about the guns is that they involved two cases and multijurisdictions.

Visnich, who was charged with possessing the firearms taken from Kerchum's home, was found guilty in federal court. The case was dismissed after his conviction was overturned by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Palombaro said.

Kerchum last made the news in the corruption trial of former Congressman James A. Traficant Jr.

Kerchum contended without a jury present that he was recruited by the FBI in 1998 to investigate Traficant and given the code name "Cheeze One."

He said he found no evidence of wrongdoing by Traficant. That testimony was dismissed by the judge.

yovich@vindy.com




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