Hearing starts on sealing of Oakhill records

By Peter H. Milliken



A hearing will begin at 9 a.m. today on whether records in the now-dismissed Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal conspiracy case should be sealed from public view.

The hearing will be before visiting Judge William H. Wolff Jr. of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Lawyers for the former defendants, Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., former president of the Cafaro Co.; the Cafaro Co. and two of its affiliates; Flora Cafaro, part-owner of the Cafaro Co.; and John Zachariah, former county Job and Family Services director, are seeking the sealing to protect what they say are their privacy rights now that the case has been dismissed.

“The undisputed governmental interest in providing public access to criminal proceedings and records would be completely thwarted by an order permanently sealing court records,” Marion H. Little Jr., lawyer for The Vindicator and 21WFMJ-TV, which oppose the sealing, argued in a filing.

The special prosecutors have objected to sealing the case records because they said sealing hampers the public’s understanding of the case and right of access to it.

Judge Wolff dismissed the case on July 11 at the request of the special prosecutors from the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Ethics Commission, who said they couldn’t proceed because the FBI refused to provide tape recordings necessary for pretrial evidence sharing with the defense.

Judge Wolff dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning the charges could be refiled.

In the Oakhill case, five people and three companies were charged with conspiring to impede JFS’ move from Cafaro Co.-owned rented quarters to the county-owned Oakhill.

The county bought Oak-hill in 2006 and moved JFS there the following year. Oakhill is the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center.

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