Court orders judgment of contempt reversed
The case has been returned to common pleas court.
By DEBORA SHAULIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The 7th District Court of Appeals says Judge Maureen A. Cronin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court abused her discretion when she hastily ordered a prosecuting attorney to release the identity of a confidential informant in a drug case.
The appellate court reversed Judge Cronin's judgment in an opinion issued Thursday by Judges Gene Donofrio, Joseph Vukovich and Cheryl Waite.
The case concerns Frank Deltoro, 20, and Armando C. Rodriguez-Baron, 35, both of Arizona, who are charged with possession of marijuana, a second-degree felony. The men were to go on trial Feb. 13 in Judge Cronin's courtroom.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives task force raided a home on Cherry Hill Avenue in Youngstown in May. Deltoro and Rodriguez-Baron were found in the home, along with 65 pounds of suspected marijuana.
Deltoro's lawyer, Douglas A. King, filed a motion to disclose the informant's identity Feb. 7, saying audio tapes of conversations between the informant and a co-defendant, Daniel Morales of the Cherry Hill address, contained potential evidence to prove Deltoro's innocence.
Judge Cronin ordered Martin P. Desmond, an assistant county prosecutor, to identify the informant Feb. 8. She found Desmond in contempt of court when he didn't comply.
No chance to reply
Desmond believed the identity was irrelevant because Deltoro and Rodriguez-Baron were not charged with crimes committed in transactions with the informant.
Desmond "had no real opportunity to reply to Deltoro's motion or to even request a hearing," the appellate judges wrote. There is a "delicate balance the court must strike between competing interests. ... The court must not act with haste when such a thorough analysis of the facts is required."
The case has been returned to common pleas court so that the prosecution can file a response to Deltoro's motion and request a hearing.
Desmond, who was pleased with the opinion, said the issue of the informant's identity will still be decided by the trial court, but that decision also can be appealed.