Notice calls for Oakhill hearing

Prosecution wants court to address records issue

By Peter H. Milliken


The special prosecutors in the now-dismissed Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal conspiracy case have told the judge who presided over the matter that they want to proceed with a 9 a.m. Oct. 3 hearing concerning sealing of the case records from public view.

In a notice filed Thursday, the prosecutors said they want the hearing to occur “relative to the preservation of objections for any appeal of the State of Ohio to any sealing of the records.”

In that notice, the prosecutors told visiting Judge William H. Wolff Jr. of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court that they do not expect the hearing to last more than one day.

The notice was signed by special prosecutors Dennis P. Will, Lorain County prosecutor; Anthony D. Cillo and David P. Muhek, assistant Lorain County prosecutors; and Paul Nick, executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission.

In an earlier filing, the special prosecutors 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 July 11 at the request of the prosecutors, who said they couldn’t proceed because the FBI refused to provide tape recordings necessary for pretrial evidence sharing with the defense.

The case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning the charges could be refiled.

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 former county Job and Family Services Director John Zachariah have called for sealing of the case records to protect what they said are their privacy rights now that the case has been dismissed.

County Commissioner John A. McNally IV and County Auditor Michael V. Sciortino sought sealing but withdrew their sealing motion Thursday.

In the Oakhill case, all but two defendants were charged with conspiring to impede JFS’ move from Cafaro Co.-owned rented quarters to the county-owned Oakhill.

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

Atty. John B. Juhasz declined to comment on the reasons he and Atty. Lynn A. Maro withdrew the motions to seal on behalf of their clients, Sciortino and McNally, respectively, and reserved the right to refile those motions later.

However, in Thursday’s filing, they said a potential future ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that could force Judge Wolff to unseal the bills of particulars that give details of the Oakhill criminal charges “may well advance the considerations of privacy in putting to rest unproved allegations.”

Sciortino and McNally did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.

The Vindicator and 21 WFMJ-TV are seeking from the state’s top court a writ of prohibition that would bar Judge Wolff from keeping the bills sealed.

Marion H. Little Jr., a lawyer for the newspaper and TV station, declined to comment on the legal strategies of Juhasz and Maro.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.