"You got to understand there were a lot of days I had to appear in front of seven, nine, 11 judges and each one of those judges expected me to either give them an envelope, support their financial campaigns, act in a certain way, do this, do that.
"God forbid you ever go into a courtroom where the prosecutor is running for judge because if that happens then you have to pay him, too. I just couldn't do it anymore, it made me sick. I was having to do things that I knew were immoral and ethically wrong, and yet I had to shut up and play and pay."
This broadbrush indictment of the criminal justice system in the Mahoning Valley was issued last week by suspended Atty. Maridee L. Costanzo of Warren when she was sentenced in federal court to eight years in prison for attempting to have her estranged husband, Roger, killed.
Federal prosecutors have a responsibility to the residents of the Valley to respond to Costanzo's public charge that paying bribes to judges and prosecutors was standard operating procedure for her as a lawyer.
Was this well-known criminal defense attorney and unsuccessful candidate for Congress merely getting in a parting shot at a profession that she will never be a part of again, or do her claims have merit?
A psychological report filed with the U.S. District Court revealed that she is bipolar, has borderline personality disorder and is opiate dependent. However, she did not use the insanity defense in her case before Judge David D. Dowd Jr.
Ring of truth
If Costanzo's allegations about paying off judges and prosecutors have a ring of truth, it's because the federal investigation into government corruption in Mahoning and Trumbull counties has uncovered bribery schemes and has resulted in convictions of judges and prosecutors in Mahoning County.
Former Mahoning County Prosecutor James A. Philomena was recently released after serving time for selling justice. In all, 70 judges, prosecutors, officeholders and members of the Mafia were convicted in Mahoning County.
In Trumbull County, an investigation into the so-called purchasing scheme in county government is still ongoing, while there have been persistent rumors of the government-corruption probe targeting some high-ranking officials.
That is why Costanzo's comments demand a response from federal prosecutors. Are they investigating what she has claimed? Is she cooperating with the government? Are attempts being made to confirm with other lawyers what she has alleged?
The cloud of suspicion that has hung over Trumbull and Mahoning county governments just got darker. Residents of the Mahoning Valley deserve deserve to know what's fact and what's fiction.