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Warrant issued due to court mix-up



Published: Wed, August 13, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Patricia Meade

The defendant’s mother said he’ll turn himself in on a city warrant.

YOUNGSTOWN — A mix-up at Mahoning County Area Court in Canfield led to a warrant being issued for a Boardman man who has chalked up five driving under suspension cases this year.

After an arrest by Beaver Township police, Thomas Valley, 44, of South Avenue was charged in July with criminal trespassing and driving under suspension. Because he was arraigned in Canfield court on the trespassing charge — but not the driving under suspension charge — a bench warrant was issued, the county clerk of court’s office said Tuesday.

The warrant will be recalled once Valley is arraigned on the DUS charge at 5 p.m. today, the deputy clerk said. Both charges are expected to be set for a Sept. 3 pretrial hearing.

Valley made news this week because of a series of driving under suspension arrests, the most recent being Sunday morning during a traffic violation stop on Mahoning Avenue. He was released on a court summons.

A warrant was issued when he failed to show for arraignment Monday morning in municipal court. His mother said he intends to turn himself in.

Scrap metal plates, wheels, pipe and a manhole cover that were found in the Buick he was driving were held pending an investigation by Patrolman Dave Santangelo of the Scrap Theft Unit. Santangelo said he spoke by phone to Valley, who offered more than one version of where he got the scrap.

Municipal court records, meanwhile, show Valley was charged with DUS in January; with DUS and speed in May; and with DUS and expired plates in July. Warrants were issued in each case for his failure to appear in court as scheduled.

He was arrested July 22 on a warrant for his failure to appear for arraignment in the July DUS case. He was video-arraigned from the jail that day, and the case is now set for pretrial hearing Friday.

That same day, July 22, he was scheduled to appear in a different municipal court for pretrial hearings in the DUS cases from January and May. Because he was still in jail, he did not appear and warrants were issued by a visiting judge. Those warrants are still active, according to court records.

Police Chief Jimmy Hughes said Tuesday that the officer who issued Valley a court summons Sunday morning should have checked with the police index operator to see if he was wanted on any warrants for failure to appear in court. Had the officer known about the active warrants, Valley would have been jailed pending arraignment, not released at the scene, the chief said.

The officer did check the Law Enforcement Automated Data System for warrants, but local ones, such as those in Valley’s situation, are not in LEADS. The LEADS information showed only that Valley had three open driver’s license suspensions.

Hughes said he is still investigating what happened. He said someone in the clerk of courts office on Sunday afternoon, believing that Valley was in jail, not released on a court summons, asked the index operator to fax the two active warrants to the jail so that they could be added to his file for arraignment purposes.

The chief said Valley is still wanted on warrants for failure to appear in three separate cases — from January, May and Sunday.

meade@vindy.com


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