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Judges: Brawl verifies safety worries



Published: Fri, July 16, 2010 @ 12:05 a.m.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

skolnick@vindy.com

  Court Hearing Brawl

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Melvin Shaw II

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Melvin Shaw, 18, of Idlewood Avenue was video arraigned Wednesday in Youngstown Municipal Court on charges in the murder of Tracee Banks, 17, and attempted murder of Ohio State University football recruit Jamel Turner, 18.

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Youngstown police use force to break up a melee Wednesday morning in the hallway of the Youngstown Municipal Court in City Hall. The fight began between the friends and family members of murder suspect Melvin Shaw and those of shooting victim Tracee Banks. Shaw was arraigned before the melee.

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Wade Shaw, 35, of Youngstown, is shown on the ground after Youngstown police shocked him with a Taser for his involvement in a melee outside Youngstown Municipal Court. Shaw was charged with disorderly conduct, assault and resisting arrest and is in Mahoning County jail. The relationship of Wade Shaw and Melvin Shaw wasn’t clear.

YOUNGSTOWN

A melee in Youngstown Municipal Court’s hallway is additional proof that the current court facilities are unsafe and that major improvements — or a new courthouse — are needed, the city’s judges say.

Mayor Jay Williams and Police Chief Jimmy Hughes say the quick response by officers to diffuse the brawl before it got out of control shows that the current system works, and only a few minor tweaks are needed.

“Reasonable people have to sit down and come up with a solution,” Williams said, discussing the cash-strapped city’s plight. “It doesn’t work when one side perceives it has all the answers.”

More than a year after the trio of judges filed a complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court demanding that the city’s administration and council provide the court with “suitable accommodations,” the judges took aim at security concerns in the wake of the Wednesday brawl.

“Youngstown officials are derelict in their duties by not providing security here and to the whole building,” said Judge Robert P. Milich of Youngstown Municipal Court. “You need police presence and a plan. There’s no plan.”

The issue of security at the court, located on the second floor of city hall, has been long discussed — and long argued — by city officials.

It’s at the forefront again after a Wednesday fight in a court hallway after the arraignment of Melvin S. Shaw II, 18, of Idlewood Avenue in Youngstown. Shaw was arraigned by video, charged with murder in the death of Tracee Banks, 17, and the attempted murder of Jamel Turner, 18.

After the arraignment, an altercation broke out among family and friends of the victim and the suspect at the court’s elevator area near the clerk of court’s office.

Within a minute, the half-dozen officers on the second floor were there to break up the fight, Hughes said.

“In this case, the safety of the court was always intact,” he said. “These things happen, but it was covered by police well. We had an ample number of officers and detectives in the court area. It was seconds till we got it under control. I can’t get a better response than that.”

Police officers are on the court level of city hall “on a regular basis,” Hughes said. “Court security is very important.”

But Milich, Elizabeth A. Kobly and Robert A. Douglas Jr., the three city municipal court judges, disagree with the chief.

Officers are on the court level only when they are witnesses in cases, are transporting prisoners to court and in situations that could escalate into violence, the judges say. There are also two security guards from Vector Security, a private firm hired by the city, on the court floor.

None of those guards have had formal court training, as provided by the Ohio Supreme Court, the judges say.

On Thursday afternoon, a day after the altercation, all three judges were hearing cases in their courtrooms.

Judge Kobly’s court had three city police officers and a security guard. Judge Douglas’ court had one police officer while there were no police officers in Judge Milich’s court. A security guard was in the court hallway. The first two judges were handling criminal arraignments, and Judge Milich was with probation violators.

When there are civil or traffic cases, there is no police presence, the judges say. Sometimes those cases can elicit the most anger, Judge Kobly said.

The judges wanted $500,000 in this year’s budget to hire their own security guards. Because of the city’s struggling finances, the judges withdrew that request.

Also, the judges are asking the Ohio Supreme Court to compel the city administration and city council to spend about $8 million to turn the city hall annex building into the municipal courthouse.

Instead, the administration and council countered with a $6 million plan to improve the annex. The judges refused that offer.

“We’re judges and know what a court should look like,” Judge Douglas said. “For the city to have an architect tell us what our court should look like is offensive, really. To do it on the cheap, that’s all bogus.”

“I didn’t realize the courts belonged to the judges,” Williams said in response. “$6 million is hardly on the cheap. The building is owned by the people and not the judges.”

Wednesday’s altercation was uncommon, and police officers did a great job to get it quickly under control, he said.

For the judges to blame the problem on the court’s layout is “misguided at best and manipulative at worst,” Williams said.

“The events that transpired were because of the emotions of those involved. It happens in federal and state courts. It’s unfortunate, but you can’t have absolute security.”

In recent years, the city has installed metal detectors, security cameras, panic buttons and locks on doors in the courts, he said.

Judge Kobly said: “People are emotional and highly charged all the time. You don’t know when it will evolve in to violence. It’s by a stroke of good luck we don’t have this more often. You don’t know what a person’s intention is on any given day. It’s because of the unknown that we’re in a precarious situation every day.”


Comments

1Nunya22(315 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

I agree@lombardo

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2Cassie(88 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

The Youngstown Municipal Court has been a totally unsuitable complex for at least fifty years!!! For years and years the city has neglected the facility and now attacks the judges for wanting a courthouse that will be sufficient for many years in the future. I do not know who would know better than the judges what kind of accommodations are appropriate for the court. Mayor Williams needs to spend some time in that wild anteroom on the days that court is in session. He also needs to go and look at facilities in other comparably sized cities. It is ludicrous to argue that security was there promptly AFTER the brawl started. I am sure that would be a comfort to someone who gets killed in a similar altercation--security got there promptly to see who killed you.

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3topsailwatch(64 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

These three judges have been whining for years. Do they think that a new court house will stop someone from creating a melee ?? Come on Youngstown......do the right thing. Get rid of the whiners and while you're at it.....cut the number of judges down to two. They don't know what an 8 hour day is !! We can't afford these three incompetants.

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4TB(1167 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Let's not place the blame for this situation on the lack of security.

The blame lies solely with the folks who decided to brawl. Perhaps a simple change in dismissal procedures from the courtroom would solve this problem.

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5madasheck(64 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

A classic case of political opportunism.
The potential for this brawl should have been realized before it happened.
I am sick of our county employees using every mistake they make & their inability to properly maintain what they have as an excuse to build new facilities while the taxpayers are squeezed for every penny they have…. & it’s never enough $……We need some new candidates that know how to budget money !

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6CompMan(125 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

The city can convert the Covelli Center to their new court house.

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7Silence_Dogood(1342 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

"“We’re judges and know what a court should look like,” Judge Douglas said. “For the city to have an architect tell us what our court should look like is offensive, really. To do it on the cheap, that’s all bogus.”"

We should just build an open bay warehouse for these prima donnas. That should save us the taxpayers about 4 million dollars.

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8Lifes2Short(3877 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

You could have the most elaborate court house in the country and it won't matter. It's the public that uses these facilities that make it safe or not. There going to fight either way.

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9piwohio(56 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

County judges want more and ORDER and SUE the taxpayers to fund what THEY want, not what can be afforded. Now the city judges want or DEMAND more. If the judges do not like the work place that the taxpayers of the city and county can afford, LEAVE, QUIT, find another job that pays you the money you make and benifits you get with this job. I hear all of these judges cry like babies but then you use the same court to force taxpayers into giving you what you want. Correct me if I am wrong, Evans hands out penciles on taxpayer time. lets make all of them use a time clock or pay them salary like we do. Again, QUIT, most of you have done nothing to help the area anyway. besides backroom deals and second jobs and take our money and run. VOTE THEM ALL OUT if they can't live within the allotted money the city or county can give them.

YPD- Good job.
Williams- Not a fan of you , but I am with you on this one and don't give them the 4 million, wait and get qualified people who will accept what you can afford to give them.

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