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Court suspends ex-official's law license



Published: Thu, November 3, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The ex-prosecutor could apply to have the suspension lifted.

By MICHELE C. HLADIK

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- Former Trumbull County Prosecutor J. Walter Dragelevich had his law license indefinitely suspended by the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday, for his conviction in 2001 for car odometer tampering.

"We also agree that an indefinite suspension is the appropriate sanction," the high court's decision read. "We have imposed that penalty in similar cases."

According to the decision, the license was suspended for multiple violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility and a criminal conviction.

The decision also credited Dragelevich for time served during the interim suspension imposed Sept. 12, 2003. An interim sentence had been handed down until an investigation into the complaints could be completed.

Interim suspensions are given when an attorney is convicted of a federal felony, according to Ohio Supreme Court spokesman Dennis Whalen. In April 2003, Dragelevich pleaded guilty to charges of odometer tampering.

About the case

The ex-prosecutor reportedly negotiated with a man in April 2001 to alter the odometer on the leased 1999 Oldsmobile Bravado Dragelevich was driving because it was over the allotted amount of miles.

Dragelevich then paid the same individual $75 on May 12, 2001, to change the mileage registered by the odometer from 26,624 miles to 16,651 miles, according to previous reports.

According to the decision, Dragelevich was sentenced to a term of two years of probation with a requirement that he perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $5,000 fine.

What else happened

Following the interim suspension, the matter was given to the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline for the Ohio Supreme Court who appointed a master commissioner. The board agreed with the master commissioner's findings.

According to the high court's decision, "the board found that respondent had acted with a dishonest motive." However, it also "noted [Dragelevich] had no prior disciplinary record and had been punished in federal court for his crime."

According to Whalen, Dragelevich could apply to have the suspension lifted after two years from the date the suspension is imposed.

"He could reapply now," Whalen said. "That doesn't mean they'll grant it."

Dragelevich earned his law license in 1966 and served as Trumbull County prosecutor from 1971 to 1984. He served as president of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association in 1979.

Dragelevich also served as a part-time assistant to Anthony J. Celebrezze Jr. when Celebrezze was Ohio attorney general. Dragelevich resigned from that post in January 1989 after questions of a possible conflict of interest were raised.




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