Fugitive Safe Surrender will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in Sebring Court
By Peter H. Milliken
A fugitive Safe Surrender event will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Mahoning County Area Court No. 3, 605 E. Ohio Ave.
The event is designed to enable western Mahoning County residents with active warrants for nonviolent offenses to surrender to authorities without having to travel to Youngstown. The Sebring court has 739 active warrants.
Many western Mahoning County defendants don’t have the means to travel to Youngstown, which made it difficult for them to participate in the three-day September 2012 Fugitive Safe Surrender program at First Presbyterian Church in Youngstown, said Amsi L. Medina, bailiff at Sebring Court.
Diane Vettori, the regular court judge, will preside at Saturday’s event, and a prosecutor will be present. Defendants will be able to consult with defense lawyers before appearing before the judge.
“It was extremely beneficial and seemed to grow each day as people became less fearful after they had friends and associates turn themselves in and be immediately released,” Judge Vettori said of the Youngs-town event, where she was a judge each day.
Judge Vettori, who is patterning her Sebring event after the one in Youngstown, said she also will contact judges of the Columbiana County and Alliance municipal courts regarding bonds for people surrendering on nonviolent warrants from those jurisdictions in addition to Mahoning County warrants.
Potential participants may check the Mahoning County Clerk of Courts’ Courtview website, www.courts.mahoningcountyoh.gov, to determine whether they have any active warrants here, or call Sebring court at 330-938-9873, if they have questions.
People wanted on warrants from Sebring, Austintown, Canfield and Boardman courts may surrender at the Sebring court, Judge Vettori said.
During last year’s event in Youngstown, 212 people surrendered on 240 warrants. Only seven people and seven warrants pertained to felonies. The rest of the activity concerned misdemeanor charges. Only eight defendants were jailed.
People entering the church in Youngstown went before a municipal or county court judge or magistrate. The county bar association provided volunteer defense lawyers.
Last July, similar three-day programs were conducted in Warren and Lisbon churches.
The Ohio Attorney General’s office said 111 fugitives surrendered in Warren and 24 in Lisbon. Of them, there were two people wanted on felonies surrendering in Warren and one in Lisbon. The only people jailed were the Lisbon felony defendant and one of the Warren felony defendants.
By clearing the warrants, many program participants could begin turning their lives around without the worry of being arrested, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said after last year’s Youngstown program.
“Our primary purpose in instituting the program is to give defendants a fresh start, either in their lives or to obtain a valid license” to drive, Judge Vettori said. “So many people are afraid to apply for jobs or enroll in school because of the fear from the outstanding warrants.”
If someone is wanted on a warrant and a police officer stops that wanted person for another violation, that officer likely will arrest and jail that person without bond until the next available court date or until a judge sets bond, said Kathi McNabb Welsh, chief deputy Mahoning County clerk of courts.
There’s a “strong possibility” that someone arrested in this manner late on a Friday would be jailed over the weekend without bond until Monday in a regular week or Tuesday in a week with a Monday holiday, she observed.
“A warrant is a command to arrest,” she added.