facebooktwitterRSS
- Advertisement -
  • Most Commentedmost commented up
  • Most Emailedmost emailed up
  • Popularmost popular up
- Advertisement -
 

« News Home

Vindy seeks high court help on Oakhill



Published: Tue, January 25, 2011 @ 12:10 a.m.

photo

Atty. Marion H. Little Jr. of Columbus.

photo

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

By Peter H. MILLIKEN

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The Vindicator and 21 WFMJ-TV have asked the Ohio Supreme Court to order a visiting judge to make public all documents and proceedings in the Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal-conspiracy case.

The order, known as a writ of prohibition, would bar Judge William H. Wolff Jr. from keeping pretrial documents sealed from public view or from closing any court hearings.

The writ is needed “to remedy the unconstitutional infringement by respondent of the public’s rights of access to ongoing judicial proceedings,” wrote Marion H. Little Jr., lawyer for the newspaper and TV station, in the complaint seeking the writ. The complaint was filed Monday.

If the writ isn’t granted, defendants in the criminal case “will have succeeded in effectively turning a presumptively public criminal process into a virtually private proceeding,” he argued.

“We want to ensure that defendants’ efforts for a trial cloaked in secrecy fail,” Little said in an interview.

Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for the Cafaro Co., which is one of the defendants in the case, declined to comment on The Vindicator’s filing, other than to say: “We’ll see how it plays out in the court.”

The special prosecutors have filed bills of particulars detailing the charges against all defendants in the case, which is set for trial June 6 in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

All of the bills remain under seal, except for the one detailing the money-laundering charge against Flora Cafaro, part-owner of the Cafaro Co., and Atty. Martin Yavorcik, which was filed before Judge Wolff began sealing documents in the case.

The money-laundering charge pertains to an allegedly concealed $15,000 gift Flora Cafaro gave to Yavorcik’s unsuccessful 2008 campaign for county prosecutor. Yavorcik and Flora Cafaro are not charged with conspiracy.

Although Judge Wolff has unsealed other documents in the Oakhill case at the request of the newspaper and TV station, he has kept the rest of the bills of particulars away from public view.

Five people and three companies are charged with conspiracy and other charges in an alleged effort to impede the move of the county’s Department of Job and Family Services from Cafaro Co.-owned rented quarters to Oakhill Renaissance Place.

The county bought Oakhill in 2006 and moved JFS there a year later. Oakhill is the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center.

Those charged in the July 28, 2010, indictment with conspiracy and other charges 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.; County Commissioner John A. McNally IV, county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino; former county Treasurer John B. Reardon; and former county JFS Director John Zachariah.

Individual bills of particulars were filed under seal late last year for Sciortino, Reardon and Zachariah; and the final combined bill was filed Jan. 3 for Anthony Cafaro, the corporate defendants and McNally.

In a Nov. 10 motion, defense lawyers asked that all remaining bills stay sealed until after the trial.

In ordering that those bills of particulars stay sealed, Judge Wolff said they contain information that may not be admissible in the trial; their release would make selection of an impartial jury here unlikely; and the effort to seat an impartial jury should begin here.

If the judge is correctly concerned 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.

In Monday’s filing, Little complained that the Cafaro defendants initially sent a letter to the judge Sept. 2, in which they asked that the bills of particulars be sealed, rather than submitting that request then in the form of a legal motion or filing it as a matter of public record.

In last month’s order keeping the bills sealed, Judge Wolff said he found credible an Ohio University faculty member’s testimony that The Vindicator dominates the Youngstown-area media scene.

Judge Wolff found that the newspaper, which has given the case “intense, tough coverage,” and its website, Vindy.com, “have a virtual monopoly on the dissemination of local news in Mahoning County.”

When asked during a hearing concerning document-sealing about the likelihood that media coverage would taint the jury pool or deny the defendants a fair trial, Hugh Martin, associate professor of journalism at OU, said that matter was outside his expertise, Little wrote in Monday’s filing at the state’s top court.

Martin, a witness for the Cafaro defendants, was the sole witness at that hearing last month.


Comments

11970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Good job Vindy! I hope everyone who reads Vindy realizes that this is an expensive process for Vindy to do this.

Suggest removal:

2author50(1121 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Agree with 1970mach1 and Kim!

Move the trial and make everything public. The huge public corruption trial about Cuyahoga County's corrupt government has been moved to Akron.

We need to move ours and open up the process.

Suggest removal:

31970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Pretty sure the Cleveland trial was moved because the judge changed. Judge changed because original judge got appt to appellate court and replacement judge is based in Akron. Same federal court district, just different physical location. So rather than accommodate EVERYONE else who are ALL from Cleveland, it is the fed judge who gets accommodated.

Our trial here will eventually be opened up, but then defendants will have it moved because they have boxed themselves into a corner about not be able to have it here.

I think the defense attorneys here are outsmarting themselves. If I was one of the defendants I'd want trial in Mahoning Co. regardless of whether bill of particulars is released first or not. Sciortino just got 55% of the vote. Other areas of state are not going to be so used to the political "ways" of our area.

I also think defendants will have a good show to put on. All of Cafaro's money will be used to bring up everything in the world about everyone even remotely involved in Oak Hill.

Suggest removal:

4Cassie(88 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

I will be interested to see how this trial plays out. I cannot understand why political figures who oppose an action by other political officials can be accused criminally of conspiracy. I certainly hope the prosecutors have more evidence than it appears that they have right now. Also, I support Judge Wolff's action--it's about time someone has the guts to call attention to the Vindicator's mean-spirited bias. The only sad part is that no matter what the outcome of the trial is, the Vindicator and Bertram DeSouza will never let it rest--the defendants will forever be referred to as "indicted" and if, perchance, they are not convicted, the implication will always be that there must have been some hanky panky--NEVER admitting that they may be innocent of these very strange charges. I heard a rumor that George Tablack issued an E-mail telling the employees of DHS that they could be criminally charged if they voiced any opposition to the OakHill move. Are these charges a great threat to the First Amendment rights of the defendants? Just asking.

Suggest removal:

5JME(801 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

"I cannot understand why political figures who oppose an action by other political officials can be accused criminally of conspiracy"

The county commissioners had voted and approved the purchase of Oakhill. The Oakhill 7 are being charged because they tried to slow down/block the move of the county's Job & Family Services to Oakhill. Whether purchasing Oakhill was a good move or not, the county had already purchased the building to consolidate it's operations. Sciorintino refused to write the check for the purchase of Oakhill, until a judge ordered him to do so - it sure looks like he was doing his part in slowing things down.
Guilty or not, there is a clear conflict of interest involving the 7. This does not involve just a difference of opinion among political officials

"Are these charges a great threat to the First Amendment rights of the defendants?"

A government employees job is protected under free speech. Not so for the rest of us.

Suggest removal:

61970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2011/...

Here, a different court of appeals than the one that covers Youngstown, ruled that the DEFENDANT'S right to fair trial means that courtroom cannot be cleared during witness testimony.

Kind of stands to reason that public should get same right.

Suggest removal:

7StumblingOnTruth(1 comment)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Between the pervasive political corruption, ridiculously powerful labor unions, and a population that sees no problem with shopping at Walmart on Monday while asking "Where have all the jobs gone?" on Tuesday, it's almost hard to believe that companies aren't lining up to invest in the valley!

The ship be sinking. Little wonder the valley loses so many 18-35 year-olds (and the good ones that are educated and want to work as opposed to the third-generation welfare/unemployment/social security disability/worker's compensation recipients that dropped out of high school in to parlay their government checks into frivolous lawsuits).

Suggest removal:

81970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

"In last month’s order keeping the bills sealed, Judge Wolff said he found credible an Ohio University faculty member’s testimony that The Vindicator dominates the Youngstown-area media scene.

Judge Wolff found that the newspaper, which has given the case “intense, tough coverage,” and its website, Vindy.com, “have a virtual monopoly on the dissemination of local news in Mahoning County.”

Well, not so fast there Wolfie.
Here is a pretty BIG Oak Hill story the Warren Tribune has had posted online for at least twelve hours on Feb 1, 2011 and as of 2:10 pm 2-1-11 Vindy has nothing posted.

http://www.tribtoday.com/page/content...

Suggest removal:


News
Opinion
Entertainment
Sports
Marketplace
Classifieds
Records
Discussions
Community
Help
Forms
Neighbors

HomeTerms of UsePrivacy StatementAdvertiseStaff DirectoryHelp
© 2014 Vindy.com. All rights reserved. A service of The Vindicator.
107 Vindicator Square. Youngstown, OH 44503

Phone Main: 330.747.1471 • Interactive Advertising: 330.740.2955 • Classified Advertising: 330.746.6565
Sponsored Links: Vindy Wheels | Vindy Jobs | Vindy Homes | Pittsburgh International Airport