The former attorney pleaded guilty to a prosecutor's bill of information.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A former city lawyer must wait to find out whether prison or probation will be his punishment for defrauding his law firm of nearly $200,000.
John F. Zimmerman Jr., 54, of Naples, Fla., pleaded guilty Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to one count of theft by deception, a fourth-degree felony.
Judge Maureen A. Cronin ordered that a background check be done on Zimmerman before he is sentenced. Under Ohio law, he could get up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine, or be placed on probation for up to three years.
Assistant Prosecutor Jay Macejko said that as part of the plea agreement, his office will make no recommendation on the sentence.
Zimmerman was not indicted by a county grand jury, instead pleading to a prosecutor's bill of information.
Macejko said the deal was negotiated by Prosecutor Paul Gains and Zimmerman's lawyer, J. Gerald Ingram. Gains was out of town Friday and unavailable to comment.
Ingram declined to comment until after Zimmerman's sentencing, the date of which has not been set.
Zimmerman, wearing a dark green suit and white shirt, stared at the floor as his hearing started, then looked directly at the judge as she began addressing him.
After the hearing, he was taken to the county jail for booking, then was released on his own recognizance. Macejko did not object to Zimmerman's being released without a cash bond.
A partner since 1974
Zimmerman had been a partner and shareholder since 1974 with the law firm of Manchester, Bennett, Powers & amp; Ullman of Youngstown. The firm terminated his employment March 31, 2002, after discovering nearly $200,000 missing.
Zimmerman later resigned his license to practice law in Ohio.
A complaint filed against Zimmerman with the Ohio Supreme Court's disciplinary counsel in September said that since the middle of 1998, he devised various schemes by which he would submit bogus requests for reimbursement for supposedly client-related expenses.
An internal investigation by the firm revealed that Zimmerman "may have dishonestly taken" at least $191,171. Ingram said most of that has already been paid back.
Judge Cronin said part of Zimmerman's sentence could include that he pay back the rest, if he is able. Ingram said Zimmerman is working in Florida, but did not say what he does.