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Motion seeks dismissal of suit against sheriff



Published: Fri, September 1, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Court testimony is immune from civil suits, the prosecutor said.

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Mahoning County prosecutor's office has filed a motion on behalf of Sheriff Randall Wellington to dismiss a lawsuit filed against him by Jeffrey Chance of Canfield, a former deputy sheriff.

In the suit he filed in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on Aug. 15, Chance said he was indicted in 1998 by a Mahoning County grand jury based on false testimony by former Maj. Michael Budd of the sheriff's department, who is also listed as a defendant in Chance's suit.

The suit alleged that Budd and Wellington concocted a scheme to have Chance indicted because of Chance's relationship with former Sheriff Philip Chance, his brother.

"Witnesses are absolutely immune from civil suits for remarks made during the course of and relevant to a judicial proceeding, even if those remarks are false," Gina DeGenova Bricker, assistant prosecutor, wrote in her dismissal motion, citing prior court decisions.

Courts have refused to cancel this doctrine of testimonial immunity even when plaintiffs have alleged that other government officials conspired to give false testimony to a grand jury to get an indictment, she added.

Bricker also argued in the motion, which was filed Thursday, that Jeff Chance has failed to state a valid claim that the sheriff engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity.

Background

Wellington fired Jeff Chance in October 1999 after he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of falsification, amended from the obstruction-of-justice charges in the indictment. The charges were related to misrepresentation of drug cases in Youngstowm Municipal Court.

Jeff Chance appealed his termination and won his job back in 2001, when a common pleas judge upheld an arbiter's decision, but resigned in 2002, citing "politics, prejudice, hostility, low morale and stress" as his main reasons for quitting.




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