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Morford deserves promotion for success as crimefighter



Published: Thu, February 20, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Barring some unforeseen problem, Lorain County Prosecutor Greg White will be confirmed by the United States Senate as the U.S. attorney for Northern Ohio, replacing Democrat Emily Sweeney. The job should have gone to Craig Morford, the assistant U.S. attorney whose record as a federal crimefighter includes the conviction of former Congressman James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland.

Which is not to say we have anything against White. He's largely an unknown quantity in the Mahoning Valley. But we know a lot about Morford. We have followed his career closely and firmly believe that he had earned promotion to the top job in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cleveland.

It isn't just about Traficant, the former 17th District congressman who is now serving an eight-year sentence in a federal penitentiary in Pennsylvania. A jury in U.S. District Court in Cleveland found the former sheriff of Mahoning County guilty of 10 criminal charges, including racketeering, bribery and tax evasion. Morford, who built his case on the testimony of witnesses and the evidence compiled by the FBI, sold the jury on the idea that Traficant, who had enjoyed strong support from his constituents in the Mahoning Valley, was nothing more than a crooked politician who used his public position for personal gain.

And it isn't about the fact that Morford, along with FBI agents in the Youngstown office, were able to turn one of the most influential organized crime bosses in the region, Lenine Strollo, into a government witness.

Organized crime

The assistant prosecutor's record in fighting government corruption and organized crime should be looked at from the perspective of the hope it has given to a region that had hit rock bottom. The federal government's campaign to clean up the Valley has resulted in more than 70 public officials, including judges, and organized crime figures being convicted or pleading guilty to various criminal charges.

Among Morford's trophies are former Mahoning County Sheriff Phil Chance, former county Prosecutor James A. Philomena and former county Engineer William Fergus.

But despite his success, the assistant U.S. attorney is a study in modesty. He is quick to spread credit around, as he did Tuesday night when he spoke to the annual dinner meeting of the Citizens League of Greater Youngstown. He said the prosecutions were the result of a team effort and he asked FBI and IRS agents who were involved in the investigations in the Valley to stand for applause.

Morford was one of three individuals considered for the position of U.S. attorney for Northern Ohio and we're disappointed that he was passed over.

We are well aware that such appointments have a political aspect to them, seeing as how the president submits the nomination to the Senate and that the recommendation of the state's senators hold sway, but we had hoped that Morford's record would overshadow other considerations. It didn't work out that way.

However, we do urge U.S. Sens. Mike DeWine and George V. Voinovich, both Republicans, to find a way of rewarding Morford for his outstanding record as a public servant dedicated to the public good.




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