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MAHONING COUNTY Mix-up derails deputy's plea deal



Published: Sat, March 8, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The prosecutor says information was withheld by the sheriff, who denies it.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County's top two law enforcement offices are at odds over what caused a potential plea agreement to fall through for a deputy sheriff accused of sex charges.

Deputy Mark Dixon was in court Wednesday with his lawyer, John B. Juhasz, apparently ready to plead guilty to a prosecutor's bill of information for gross sexual imposition.

It was to have been done in place of a criminal indictment being sought against Dixon for other, possibly more serious charges.

But at the last minute, Juhasz and Dixon decided against taking the plea and left the courthouse. Juhasz declined to comment.

The problem, Prosecutor Paul Gains said afterward, was that the sheriff's department hadn't given his office all the information it had in its investigative file.

The prosecutor's office is required by both Ohio law and a local court rule to provide the defense with copies of all documents and reports from the investigating police agency. Some of those, though, weren't handed over until Wednesday, Gains said.

He said Juhasz and Dixon then changed their minds about the plea because they had just received the new information and needed time to look it over.

Gains was angry about the problem and said it should never have happened.

"I don't know why they didn't give us this stuff," Gains said. "We asked for it at least two times before."

The other side

But Maj. Michael Budd of the sheriff's department said that's not true.

"I was never asked prior to today to hand over those documents," Budd said. "The prosecutor's office has never once asked to look at my file. My file is wide open."

Sheriff Randall Wellington was equally livid at his department's being blamed for the snafu. He said the prosecutor's office sent him a letter Wednesday morning asking for documents from the department's file.

"I can't even believe what I'm hearing," the sheriff said after hearing of Gains' comments.

Gains said his staff now will present Dixon's case to a grand jury for possible indictment. He expected to present the case today.

Dixon, 29, is accused of having a female inmate perform a sex act on him in the county jail in November.

bjackson@vindy.com




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