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Commander demoted, major suspended in Sciortino DUI matter



Published: Wed, July 3, 2013 @ 12:01 a.m.

By PETER H. MILLIKEN

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Download as PDF:
Sciortino Traffic Stop Investigation

Investigation performed by the Summit County Sheriff's Office regarding a traffic stop involving Mahoning County Auditor, Michael Sciortino and Mahoning County Sheriff's Office personnel.

  Sciortino Traffic Stop Report

Sheriff Jerry Greene speaks in a press conference on behalf of the punishment involving county Auditor Michael Sciortino and Commander T.J. Assion.

Sheriff Jerry Greene speaks in a press conference on behalf of the punishment involving county Auditor Michael Sciortino and Commander T.J. Assion.

Mahoning County Auditor Michael V. Sciortino “certainly appeared” to have operated a vehicle while impaired when he was stopped May 26 by a county sheriff’s sergeant, outside investigators have concluded.

Sgt. James Touville and Cmdr. Thomas J. Assion of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office agreed to abort Touville’s arrest of Sciortino on suspicion of drunken driving and to release Sciortino, because they decided the auditor had a medical problem and that Assion would drive Sciortino home, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office concluded in the report it released Tuesday. That decision led to Assion’s demotion from commander to sergeant.

Sciortino, however, never requested medical care — nor did Touville or Assion seek it for him, the investigators said.

The outside investigators said they based their conclusions on witness statements, on Sciortino’s failure of the field sobriety test Touville gave him, and Sciortino’s admission that he had consumed one or two alcoholic drinks.

The 11:35 p.m. traffic stop was at U.S. Route 224 near Raccoon Road in Canfield Township after Sciortino apparently fell asleep after receiving food at a nearby Wendy’s drive-through, and Wendy’s employees called 911 to report their concerns about his possible impairment.

Sciortino was charged only with failure to drive within marked lanes and has paid a $50 fine and $80 in court costs to Mahoning County Area Court in Canfield.

“Sciortino was, by all appearances, appropriately arrested for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated,” the investigators concluded.

Touville told investigators Sciortino “failed miserably” on the field sobriety test, the investigators reported.

Touville told investigators he didn’t smell alcohol on Sciortino, but that he did observe that Sciortino had “a slurred to mush mouth speech” and that Sciortino, 42, of Austintown, fumbled for his driver’s license.

Interviews by investigators showed that, after arresting Sciortino on a drunken-driving charge, Touville called to inform Lt. Stephen McGeary, who called Maj. Jeffrey Allen. The major told investigators he declined to intervene in the arrest, but called Assion to inform him of what was happening. Assion then called Touville to say he’d be on the scene in 20 minutes.

The report states Touville feared he’d suffer backlash from the department the next day for arresting a county official or having that official possibly test below the legal limit on the blood-alcohol test, so he “took the option” of turning Sciortino over to Assion. Sciortino was “un-arrested” by Touville, a marked lane violation citation was issued, and Assion took Sciortino home in the auditor’s car.

Sheriff Jerry Greene announced late Tuesday that he had demoted Assion, effective immediately, from commander to his previous rank of sergeant, which amounted to a $19,000 annual pay cut; and suspended Allen for 10 days for failing to immediately inform the sheriff of what happened.

As a commander, Assion earned about $70,000 a year.

Greene said Touville would go through the disciplinary hearing process prescribed by the labor contract of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141, of which Touville is a bargaining-unit member.

Greene said he doesn’t think Touville can escape responsibility for his actions by contending he was simply following Assion’s orders to abort Sciortino’s arrest. He added that Touville should have insisted to Assion that Touville would continue the post-arrest procedure by taking Sciortino to the Canfield Police Department for a blood-alcohol test.

Asked whether Assion’s conduct rises to the level of obstruction of justice, the sheriff said: “I don’t believe that it’s obstructing justice.”

Allen told investigators Sciortino called to thank him a day or two after the traffic stop, and that Allen told Sciortino during that 20-second call that he should take the incident “as a learning experience.”

Allen, who has known Sciortino since high school, said he assumed Sciortino was thanking him because the traffic stop resulted only in a minor traffic citation, instead of a drunken-driving arrest.

Sciortino, Assion, Allen and Touville could not be reached to comment for this story.

Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains said there can be no drunken-driving prosecution of Sciortino unless the sheriff’s office issues a citation against Sciortino alleging that offense. Gains declined to speculate on the probability of success of a drunken-driving prosecution of Sciortino at this point.

“I would guess that it would be awful difficult to prove whether Auditor Sciortino was drunk. I can certainly say that there was a degree of impairment, but based on the inappropriate intervention of my commander, we’ll never know that because there was never a Breathalyzer test given,” the sheriff said.

Greene added that, to his knowledge, Sciortino did not ask for any favors from the deputies during the traffic stop.

The investigators say FBI Agents Deane Hassman and Thomas A. Donnelly interviewed Sciortino on May 31 concerning the traffic stop and that the FBI interview report is attached to what the investigators provided Greene.

However, Greene declined to provide the FBI report to the media.

Under FBI policy, Gains said he doesn’t believe the sheriff is authorized to disclose the contents of the FBI report to the media.

Neither Greene nor Gains said they knew of any federal law issue concerning the traffic stop that would generate FBI interest in the matter.

FBI Agent Vicki Anderson in Cleveland could not be reached to comment on the reason for the FBI’s interest in the matter.

Greene said he called for an outside investigation of his staff’s handling of the Sciortino stop to avoid any appearance of bias.

“When I first found out that this happened, I was furious. I couldn’t believe the actions of my men,” Greene said. “Later, after it set in, obviously, I was embarrassed. This isn’t the message — this isn’t the representation of this office that I want to have,” he added.

“I don’t want it to ever happen again,” he said. Greene said he wants to “set the bar higher that this sort of thing isn’t going to be tolerated.”

As for Assion, “He was forthright and honest with what he did,” the sheriff said. Greene said Assion has apologized and acknowledged responsibility for his actions and “knows he’s let the agency down.” The sheriff concluded: “Hopefully, one day, he can earn the trust back.”

County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras said this incident “is not indicative of anything, but a lack of judgment by the deputies involved in this. It’s not a systemic problem. People are going to make mistakes, and T.J. is obviously suffering the consequences.”

What would have been a problem is if Sciortino “threw his weight around,” trying to get out of an arrest by saying he’s a county official, Betras said.

“That didn’t happen,” said Betras, an attorney.


Comments

1Ianacek(909 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Chairman David Betras said this incident “is not indicative of anything, but a lack of judgment by the deputies"

What rubbish ! It's indicative of a lack of judgement by Michael Sciortino to place other road users in danger by choosing to drive when he was almost too drunk to stay awake. Sciortino can't be suspended or demoted until the next election , but Mr Betras should make it plain to him that if there is no public "mea culpa" from Sciortino , he won't have the party's support again.

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2Valleyvoter(21 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Well said, absolutely agree.

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3steelwagon(284 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

"Failed miserably”
"Slurred to mush mouth speech"
"Fumbled for his drivers license
Fell asleep after getting food at a near by drive in.
Medical problem......is that what they call a xanax bender these days ?

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4islandgrump(59 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree totally with Greene. But I feel a demotion is in order for the Sheriff's hand picked Major. He should have stepped in and done his job. He failed, and the Lieutenant takes the big hit. Not really fair across the board. Demotions for all or suspensions for all. Don't show favoritism.

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5author50(1121 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Why didn't the Vindicator get a statement from MADD? As a matter of fact, why didn't MADD make a statement?

I think the Sheriff, as a favor to the people of Mahoning County ought to opt out of OVI checkpoints or offer rides home to those who might have had 'one too many'!

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6Knightcap(699 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Mahoning county and democrats. What a cocktail mixture. How about Ryan when he got hammered and picked up for public intoxication in DC. Strings were pulled. Said he was a contortionist. We need to make changes from the White House with Goofy all the way down to our local yocals. Quit voting for the same old democrats. I guess if we didn't the Vindy wouldn't have anything to write about.

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7walter_sobchak(1910 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

The most enlightening item in this article is that the FBI took an interest in the matter. This event was nothing but offering some preferential treatment to a county officeholder; been going on for years here and elsewhere. But, the FBI taking an interest in this matter indicates that their investigation of county politicians, whom all happen to be democrats, is still ongoing. Dave Betras should really go on tour and do stand-up comedy because his statements are truly laughable.

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8Jive_Turkey(32 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

A 21 year old goes out and has 2-3 drinks, gets pulled over on their way home and blows a .085 into a breathalyzer and is hammered with a DUI, disorderly conduct, etc.. That 21 year old has no money, barely makes a living wage, is in college trying to better themselves and is thrown to the wolves to be made an example.

A County official is out having drinks, possibly prescription drugs, falls asleep at the wheel, is clearly intoxicated beyond a reasonable doubt, and is given a ride home by our officers who are sworn to protect and serve (only people who matter).

This is a huge injustice to our political and law enforcement agencies. Everyone involved should be demoted or fired completely. Sciortino has been involved with more political scandals than most and yet people still put up with his lack of morality and character.

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9Nom_De_Plume(54 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

A few observations...

1. Sheriff Greene handled this well and should be commended.

2. Given the political undertones, I understand seeking comments from Betras who otherwise has nothing worthwhile to add.

3. Finally, two areas of the law where Gains has some expertise - Pursuing his political enemies and DUI!

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10harleydog(209 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Must have been leaving Kennsington where he works part time at the restaurant and bar.

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11redvert(2064 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

gdog4766, yes, Bush did screw up, if he had let the special forces capture Bin laden who they were hot on the trail of and then never gone into Iraq we would of been carving his likeness in Mt. Rushmore. That is old news. Will not even bother to discuss the clown we have in the White House now.

Let us talk about Ytown and the success it has had in the last 50-60 years under the libs. Our other two nearby steel towns, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are head and shoulders ahead of Ytown in recovery after the mills shutdown. The idiots in Ytown continue to reelect the same politicians. "When nothing changes nothing changes" Now I admit that other midwest cities are lib strongholds and have done very well, such as Chicago and Detroit......Awww let me change the train of thought. Now do I think that a all Republican administration is the answer, well maybe for a term or two to get us back on track but a nice mix after that would be the answer.

Let me add one thing as far as the latest spying crap in Washington. By current standards, Nixon would not of been a crook....think about it!!!

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12Knightcap(699 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

@redvert - parasites like @gdog just care about getting their hands in taxpayers pockets just like dems in this area keep doing year after year. Goofy has us at almost 17 trillion in debt and idiots just follow blindly.

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13harleydog(209 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Wonder if Sciortino is going to make up the 19k for his friend.

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14TonyRizzo(82 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

$19,000.00?????
Is this what Sheriff Greene believes is appropriate punishment?
Termination was the correct answer.
It was a moral breakdown and there is no excuse for that.
The Sheriff who committed this horrible act is AS GUILTY as the the Drunk Auditor.
This is a Moral, Trust and Safety issue by all this elected officials. Not a monetary one.

Question?
Would a non good-ole-boy network get a break like this?

We all would be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Everyone makes mistakes.
As elected officials that's a big NO NO.

Can we vote for Sheriff Greene, or Auditor Sciortino?
I think we all know the answer to that question in the next election.......
Shameful and Sad.

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15YtownParent(324 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Sheriff Greene has done a commendable job and the most he may be able to do at this moment. Now it is up to Gains to go after the officers for obstruction, since the original offender (Scoitino) wasn't and can't be tried for their crimes because of Allen, Assion, and Touville's actions. I hope, but highly doubt it, that Gains would show as much backbone as Sheriff Greene.

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16auntiem4cabs(113 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

So... you are sworn to UPHOLD the law? Does it say somewhere that you only UPHOLD the law for the regular Joe? apparently. FIRE THEM.

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17DwightK(1256 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Nice to see Sheriff Greene upholding some standards. Also nice to see the FBI involved. Our county officials need to see the feds aren't going away and are watching.

I keep wondering when the Oakville boot will finally drop.

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18author50(1121 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

In Mahoning County due process begins and ends when law enforcement finds out your last name.

How can the citizens feel safe when the Sheriffs Department failed, Canfield Police failed, the Prosecutor failed (again), The FBI failed and now everyone has to run to Mike DeWine for help (he will fail us, too).

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19lumper(281 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

ok, let's see sciortinos' and BETRAS' cell phone records for that time frame and then we will all know who told who to do what. this area smells from these democrats and that's why columbus ignores this area. corruption, corruption, corruption and how about that ding-bat commissioner saying to "put all this behind us " yeah, so we don't realize what thieves these people are. stay home and make sauce toots !!!

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201970mach1(1005 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

http://www.vindy.com/news/2008/jul/16...

Sheriff Wellington fired Assion in 2008 but he got his job back through the union. Can't tell from the article what Assion was accused of though.

Sciortino will win Democrat party nomination. After all they gave Antonini a standing ovation after she made guilty plea and resigned, so this will be no big deal.

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21author50(1121 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

@1970mach1... good job. At least Wellington had the backbone to fire TJ. Wonder how he flew up the ranks to Greene's second in command after 2008 (tongue in cheek)?

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22kayceekay2k(4 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

When you hear stories like this it makes it hard to respect the Department. They look like chumps and their peers should step up and bash the hell out of this kind of stuff.
I respect Greene and he should be going full-on with the discipline here because this is what gives law enforcement officers a bad name.

It is bad. And it is a big deal.

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23author50(1121 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Call MADD at 1-877-275-6233 demand they bring justice to the people of Mahoning County since law enforcement is incapable or worse, will not.

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24biggieshortlegs(28 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

The MCSO has been the joke of local law enforcement for years. Remember Green has been in this circus for a long time also. It will take decades of honorable men and women to fix that department. What happened on this traffic stop has been going on for years. The " Good Ol' Boys network" is alive and well. Well maybe a little dented but not for long. I have hope that Green will do his part to clean house.

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25Not_Surprised(48 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Mark my words, this event is just the beginning.

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26intel007(1 comment)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

This is a total joke... from the Sheriff, FBI, Betras & Gains...

the only people who lost out were the people of this valley....

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27vinglass(231 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

I received an email today from Kensington Gold Course. "Magic Mike" Sciortino will be the DJ/bartender tonight at their prime rib shindig. I 'm sure you will all like to go see "Magic Mike" and learn how to avoid being arrested for DUI by using your political position ..... What incredible chuzpah!!!

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281970mach1(1005 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Greene did the right thing by sending over to Summit County to investigate. I bet the guys involved are overjoyed that Greene didn't fire them like Wellington would have (and did).

*Just the concept of having someone "UNarrested" is beyond belief. I never heard of that term before.

*Assion showed up at a traffic stop with his girlfriend?

*The guy on the scene is told that Assion will be there in 20 minutes? For what?

*Why was the Ohio State Patrol officer sent away?

*Why isn't there an interview in the report with the OSP officer that was sent away?

*They had the BAC test arranged in Canfield and then cancelled it?

*Allen claimed he did not follow up with Assion about the stop because he "did not want to get involved"? Isn't Allen the one who called Assion in the first place and got him involved? And why? Or did I read that incorrectly?

*If the people on the scene were claiming there was a medical issue, what was it and why didn't they seek medial aid?

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29Constructor(105 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

This entire episode is beyond belief. Even the OSP can not be trusted to do the right thing anymore....

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30vinglass(231 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Hopefully the fearless Vindicator will pursue this all the way. The people have got to quit accepting this kind of behavior from our public officials. Think it'll happen???

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31Petunia(27 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

I realize that an impaired driver is a problem, but now we have the Sheriff, the County Prosecutor and the Attorney General involved. What a waste of taxpayer money. Throw Sciortino in jail for a couple nights and maybe the problem will be solved. When will the FBI be brought into this investigation?
AND WHY IS IT that a minor traffic offense gets the attention of the AG while the rapes of young black women is this community are covered up by the YPD with the backing of the Youngstown Law Department. When will Youngstown progress out of the 1940's and 1950's? Who gets the kickbacks on this investigation, and better who is getting paid to hide the rapes?

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321970mach1(1005 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

After reading the report, I think Touville probably deserves the least discipline of all.
He got there and made the traffic stop; did the tests for OVI; arrested him for OVI; directed the other officer to take pictures of the vehicle and to do inventory of contents; informed his superiors he caught a big fish because he knows if he doesn't he could take some flack; makes arrangements for the big fish to have BAC test in Canfield; arrested the big fish; & put the big fish in his cruiser.

Then, his boss comes to the scene, tells him to UNarrest the big fish.

Then his other boss blames Touville in the report for "putting others in the line of fire." REALLY!!?!?!?!??!

Nobody forced his superiors to get involved once they found out, they did that on their own.

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33stoutmaster(29 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

@kurtw I've been saying (not posting) that for years. I'm not advocating one party over another. We need 2 equally strong parties in this valley if we ever want to see improvement.

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341970mach1(1005 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

You will never have a strong GOP in Mahoning County again. You can thank the citizens of Struthers, Campbell, & Youngstown for that. They vote straight D no matter what. (Funny thing is they will vote for GOP judges when no party affiliation is listed).
A GOP candidate has not won a race for commissioner, recorder, auditor, treasurer or clerk of courts since 1964.

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351970mach1(1005 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

When Democrats for Change came about they were the de facto opposition party. They then became the party itself. And look where that has gotten things. Need another D opposition party.

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36uptowngirl(111 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Assion should be fired now that he admits that he did not want to arrest his friend, the auditor, for DUI. Special favors and treatment is what got this valley the reputation it has. Time to do the right thing and stop it now. Greene has a chance at changing things and leaving a clean legacy.

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37lumper(281 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

ok, let's see sciortinos' and BETRAS' cell phone records for that time frame and then we will all know who told who to do what. and this sure smells like obstruction of justice by assion.

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38CS43(23 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

LOL who is surprised

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39uptowngirl(111 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

lumper--I think you may have something there!

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