By Bertram de Souza
If it is true that if you lie down with dogs you get fleas, then Atty. Martin Yavorcik, an independent candidate for Mahoning County prosecutor. should be worried about infestation.
Yavorcik, who is conducting an aggressive campaign against Prosecutor Paul Gains, the Democratic nominee seeking his fourth, four-year term on Nov. 4, has a business relationship with one of the more infamous disbarred lawyers in the Mahoning Valley, Richard Goldberg.
Just the mere mention of Goldberg’s name brings to mind one of the darkest periods in this region’s criminal justice history.
Goldberg is a convicted felon, having served 51 months in federal prison after pleading guilty in August 1999 to defrauding 23 clients of at least $4.4 million between 1993 and 1999. Before his fall from grace, he was one of the leading medical malpractice lawyers in the state of Ohio. His lifestyle — a huge collection of antique cars and floor-length mink coats — was a testament to his success.
But federal prosecutors showed him for what he truly was, a despicable human being who cheated clients out of their malpractice settlements.
When he was released from prison in October 2003, he was placed on three years’ probation by a federal court and ordered to make restitution of $4.4 million to his clients.
He was permanently disbarred on Feb. 27, 2002.
Goldberg subsequently pleaded guilty in February 2005 to 29 state charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft and forgery. However, a 15-year prison sentence was suspended and he was placed on five years’ probation.
What does all this have to do with Yavorcik?
The following transcript of a tape recording made Oct. 16 during the 7th Ward Citizens Coalition Candidate forum provides the answer:
“This question is for Marty Yavorcik. Is Rick Goldberg, does he work at your office, or is he on your payroll? Do you have any affiliation with Rick Goldberg?
Yavorcik: I represented Rick Goldberg. He was illegally being held after he served a six-year sentence. I freed him through a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court, which Paul’s office fought me on. He does not work for me. He is not on the payroll. He’s an independent contractor, and he works for many lawyers.
Gains: Does he have an office in your, in your suite, Marty? Does Mr. Goldberg have an office in your suite?
Gains: He doesn’t answer your phone?
Yavorcik: Oh, I don’t know if he answers the phone. But he doesn’t have an office.
Gains: Does he have access to the telephone if you’re not there?
Gains: Does he? OK. So he does share office space with you? He’s an independent contractor that shares office space with you?
Yavorcik: He does not share office space.
Gains: Does he use your office?
Yavorcik: He comes to the office, yes.
Gains: Every day?
Yavorcik: Not every day. He comes to the office.
(Questions on other topics are posed, and then Yavorcik is again asked about Goldberg)
Male speaker: Mr. Goldberg has stated he does the majority of the legal research in cases, write-ups in your office. So is he mistaken, or are you?
Yavorcik: I never heard him say that. So ...
Female speaker: I did.
Female speaker: He told me that, that he spends 70 percent of his time downtown in your office. I have called there. He’s answered the phone, and he negotiates injury cases for you. Can we explain that?
Yavorcik: He, he is an independent contractor, and I have used his services. He doesn’t work for me. He stops in on ... the files that he’s hired to work on, he works on, and he doesn’t have any direct contact with any clients.
Female speaker: If he’s hired to work on them, then he works for you, correct?
Yavorcik: No. It’s a, it’s a consultation. He doesn’t work for me.
Does it matter that an individual who wants to be the county’s chief lawyer has a business relationship with a disbarred lawyer who is a convicted felon?
The answer is a resounding yes.