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Oakhill files to remain closed

Published: Wed, December 22, 2010 @ 12:03 a.m.


Visiting Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge William H. Wolff Jr. from Kettering

Judge cites Vindy impact on seating an impartial jury ‘intense coverage’ as threat to partiality

By Peter H. Milliken



At the request of the defendants, a visiting judge has refused to publicly release more bills of particulars in the Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal conspiracy case.

Although he has unsealed other documents in response to a motion by a lawyer for The Vindicator and 21 WFMJ-TV, Judge William H. Wolff Jr. of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court noted in Tuesday’s order that the bills of particulars contain information that may not be admissible in the trial.

“Taking into account The Vindicator’s intense, tough coverage of this case, the court concludes that publication of these documents would result in a substantial probability that seating an impartial jury in Mahoning County would be impossible,” the judge ruled.

Judge Wolff also found that the jury-selection problem is compounded by the need to find jurors who can sit through the estimated two- to three-month length of the trial, set to begin June 6.

Although moving the trial to another Ohio county is a potential remedy for the effects of pre trial publicity, “The court’s effort to seat an impartial jury should begin in Mahoning County,” the judge wrote in his order.

“We do not believe either the facts or the law support that conclusion,” Marion H. Little Jr., the lawyer for The Vindicator and WFMJ, said of the judge’s decision.

“We are evaluating our options but certainly believe the [Ohio] Supreme Court will have a different perspective,” Little said.

If the judge is concerned correctly about prejudice, the remedy is to move the trial to another Ohio county, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled as recently as April, Little observed.

Judge Wolff wrote he found credible the expert testimony of Hugh Martin, an associate professor of journalism at Ohio University, who testified for the defendants at a Dec. 6 hearing that The Vindicator dominates the media scene in the Youngstown area.

Judge Wolff wrote that the newspaper and its website, Vindy.com, “have a virtual monopoly on the dissemination of local news in Mahoning County.”

Bills of particulars have been filed by the special prosecutors under seal for three defendants — John B. Reardon, former county treasurer; Michael V. Sciortino, county auditor; and John Zachariah, former county Job and Family Services director.

Bills have not yet been filed for other defendants charged with conspiracy to impede the move of JFS from Cafaro Co.-owned rented quarters to Oakhill Renaissance Place. The county bought Oakhill in 2006 and moved JFS there in 2007.

The others charged with conspiracy, whose bills haven’t yet been filed, are Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., former president of the Cafaro Co.; the Cafaro Co., and two of its affiliates, the Ohio Valley Mall Co. and the Marion Plaza Inc.; and Mahoning County Commissioner John A. McNally IV.

Prosecutors earlier publicly filed a bill detailing their case against Flora Cafaro, part-owner of the Cafaro Co., and Atty. Martin Yavorcik, who are charged only with one count of money laundering and not with conspiracy.

Illustrating the extent of the newspaper and Vindy.com coverage of the case, Judge Wolff noted the newspaper website’s “Oakhill Corruption” section features numerous news stories and editorials about the case and related matters, together with links to the 73-count grand jury indictment returned on July 28 and to the Flora Cafaro and Yavorcik bill of particulars.

As for future filings other than bills of particulars, Judge Wolff ruled the newspaper has a right to be notified in advance of, and to object to, any request to file a document under seal or to close a court hearing.

The judge will then decide what gets sealed and what doesn’t, and he’ll redact or edit documents accordingly, if necessary, before unsealing the portion to be made public.

Judge Wolff ordered lawyers for the newspaper and WFMJ not to share with their clients the contents of sealed documents, but his order is silent regarding sharing of that information by the defendants’ lawyers with defendants or their public relations people, who could use it to craft statements favorable to the defendants.

“I don’t think the order places any limitations on the ability of the defendants’ counsel to share information with the defendants or otherwise prevents the defendants from communicating that information with others,” Little said.

“We’re going to defer all comment in keeping with Judge Wolff’s wishes,” said Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for the Cafaro Co.

Bell said he hasn’t seen any sealed documents in the Oakhill case and isn’t aware of any of their contents having been shared with him by Cafaro lawyers.

Concerning another issue, the judge granted a request by the Cafaro defendants for an extension of the pretrial motion filing deadline beyond Jan. 3. They’ll now have 90 days after the special prosecutors deliver all their evidence to the defendants to file those motions.


1author50(1121 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Move the damn trial... to the Federal Level. Do you think anyone in Cuyahoga County doesnt know what Jimmy Dimora has stolen - yet his entire case is front page news everyday.

Let the people see what has been going on.

Suggest removal:

2Nunya(1356 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

@ johnyoung

No Mr. Wolf, isn't " Right on point with the Law ",.. and far from it.

Where again our views and understandings by rationale differ and not only do we ever immensely disagree here. My perspective is based upon far more than any bias or mere assumption.

Which is to say with respect for your own opinion and ours so greatly differing here. I'll state that as I see this based upon applicable jurisprudence as it pertains to law, transparency and a host of other factors. The certitude here is Mr. Wolf, absolutely isn't presiding in anyway of projecting as just in his adjudicating impartial posturing here in the absolute least.

See no matter what one was inclined to believe in regards to guilt or innocence at the onset of proceedings. One had to be concerned with the detection of any judicial improprieties being employed. For which to me and a number of colleagues Mr. Wolf, entered and proceeded to display just that impropriety and now it's no mystery nor question.

Granted where I'm all supportive of upholding the values and sanctity that all parties have a right to a fair trial. For which sanctioning actions of a defense counsels petition. To conceal / withhold / deny transparency in regards to something as procedural as detailed charges filed against a defendant[s]. In and of itself isn't a process without precedent by action.

However, it has to be valid as to merit. Where in such a case as this with such particulars and dealing with public assets. To deny public access to something as proforma charges. Unquestionably goes way beyond the pale of any nonprejudicial jurisprudence being displayed by Mr. Wolf.

See he { Mr. Wolf } knows it, both sides of the defense and the prosecution knows it. However, the ploy of such posturing is to try to proliferate a positioning. That gears to presenting a partition to tamp down to what degree / extent the populous doesn't know / learn it.

Suggest removal:

3Nunya(1356 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

@ Marcus57

Without question he'd be

Along with stating I had no idea he was still on the radio. He's duly established that he's clearly a bottom shelf brand of Joe Bell clone. He's of the non substantive worthlessness of that female Winbush character and other Heckle and Jeckle's that one should have outgrown by grade school.

See along with being a non talent that merely panders to idiocy for shill profit. Those like Rivers and Winbush are of such lack of intellectual worth. That anybody that would listen to a Dan Rivers. If in search of any knowledge, insight { or anything else } are misguided and misinformed.

Of course that is other than those merely all too briefly exposing ones self. To a audio tutorial presenting a lunacy lesson in pure pander polarization,.. for personal profit.

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4escapee(43 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Public should have the same rights they have when there neighbor is charged with pedophilia.


This enterprise has been charged with corrupting ODJFS - an agency established to protect children and families, not CRIMINALS..


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51970mach1(1005 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Judge Wolff ordered lawyers for the newspaper and WFMJ not to share with their clients the contents of sealed documents, but his order is silent regarding sharing of that information by the defendants’ lawyers with defendants or their public relations people, who could use it to craft statements favorable to the defendants.

C'mom Vindy, show m'em what you are made of! Appeal to ct of appeals!!!!!!

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61970mach1(1005 comments)posted 5 years, 5 months ago

Here is tribune article that is more in depth than Vindy coverage.


Defendant's lawyers better be careful they do not out-smart themselves. The LAST thing they want is to move this trial out of Mahoning Co., but that is what will happen if they keep screwing around.

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7southsidedave(5185 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh yes, by all means keep the files closed so the public will be kept in the dark!

Suggest removal:


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