ad will close in 5

Commander demoted, major suspended in Sciortino DUI matter

Published: 7/3/13 @ 12:01




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.


Posted by Valleyvoter (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 5:02 a.m.

Well said, absolutely agree.

Posted by steelwagon (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 5:34 a.m.

"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 ?

Posted by islandgrump (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 6 a.m.

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.

Posted by author50 (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 6:46 a.m.

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'!

Posted by mishmash (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 7:13 a.m.

I would like a Sheriff's escort during all holiday weekends.

Posted by walter_sobchak (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 8:48 a.m.

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.

Posted by Jive_Turkey (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 8:58 a.m.

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.

Posted by Nom_De_Plume (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 9:02 a.m.

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!

Posted by republicanRick (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 9:04 a.m.

Sheriff Greene did a great job on this situation. The sheriff's department appears to be in very capable hands.

Posted by harleydog (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 11:06 a.m.

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

Posted by redvert (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 11:48 a.m.

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!!!

Posted by harleydog (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 12:09 p.m.

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

Posted by YtownParent (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 1:35 p.m.

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.

Posted by redeye1 (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 2:51 p.m.

Sheriff Greene Thanks for investigating this occurrence. I have gotten a lot more respect for you and your officers who weren't involved in this event.. As far as Sciortino. I will be voting against him in the next election.

Posted by DwightK (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 4:03 p.m.

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.

Posted by author50 (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 6:23 p.m.

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).

Posted by isaac45 (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 7:57 p.m.

@redvert yeah, i did, then realized i didn't have to because obama didn't have anything to do with the irs scandal as the conservative republican running it said...and as the great crusader and felon issa knows because he went silent on the issue while his dem counterpart kept pushing it..as well it turns out dem groups were targeted too as i bet you know but failed to mention...nixon of course personally ordered a raid and robbery on dnc headquarters, but you know they're close, Not

and yeah, bush on rushmore :)..sure, why not... he should be forced to go there and pick up trash so the place will look nice for tourists who want to see actual great presidents

best for you guys to keep trying to get reagan up there or sticking his name on every piece of property you can...people have forgotten his damage

Posted by redeye1 (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 9:36 p.m.

Isaac45 If you think that OBAMMy didn't know about the IRS scandal then you are the dislusional one. This clown is lower then snake's belly in a mud pit. He lies about everything and fools like you believe him. What are you worried about ,losing your handouts from him and dumbocrats

Posted by kurtw (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 10:57 p.m.

In one of the posts, the writer brought in the Republicans "George Bush, two wars, etc, etc. Do we really want them, etc. etc.?"

That isn't the point. It isn't about one party being better than another, it's about a balance of power between the parties- where the two keep each other honest. In politics it's called "checks and balances"; in business it's called competition.

The local Democrats (sic) enjoy a Monopoly and they have for as long as I can remember- and that's bad (well good for them- good for people like Davey Betras and his Buddies- bad for everybody else- as the latest outrage: a drunken county official behind the wheel of a car getting his butt kissed by the Police- where the average schmoe, with a similar offense, would have ended up in jail).

This kind of corruption will continue in the Valley until we have a healthy Two Party System instead of what we have know- Control by a gang of political con-artists just one (tiny) step up from the Mafia.

Finally, getting back to the Business Analogy: How would you like to live in a town with only one grocery store? What effect, do you think, would that fact have on the price of food? Think about it...

Posted by lumper (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 11:15 p.m.

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 !!!

Posted by kurtw (anonymous) on July 3, 2013 at 11:20 p.m.

I notice the by-line for this story is Pete H. Milliken- an excellent writer, who, I notice covers political events- City Hall, County Meetings- a lot and does an outstanding job.

The only question I have is: Along with a notebook, does the Vindy supply Mr. Milliken with a respirator when he goes into these meetings so he doesn't become nauseated? I mean, I would think, given the putrid nature of Y-town Politics, that would have to be standard equipment- along with antiemetic drugs (Alizapride is a good one but so is Cannabis) and a vomit bag like the ones they give you on airplanes. Just a thought...

Posted by 1970mach1 (anonymous) on July 4, 2013 at 1:45 a.m.


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.

Posted by author50 (anonymous) on July 4, 2013 at 6:37 a.m.

@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)?

Posted by kayceekay2k (anonymous) on July 4, 2013 at 8:03 a.m.

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.

Posted by author50 (anonymous) on July 4, 2013 at 8:47 a.m.

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.

Posted by republicanRick (anonymous) on July 4, 2013 at 8:53 a.m.

Great work 1970mach. Looks like Assion is a bad cop and he should be fired for protecting Sciortino. Assion was fired once before but the union got him his job back.
David Betras should call for Sciortino to resign, but we all know Betras' past and how he let's politicians live to a lower standard. If only Betras had high standards and any sense of morality, we would be better off as a community.

Posted by Not_Surprised (anonymous) on July 4, 2013 at 8:28 p.m.

Mark my words, this event is just the beginning.

Posted by intel007 (anonymous) on July 5, 2013 at 12:42 p.m.

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

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

Posted by vinglass (anonymous) on July 6, 2013 at 1:35 p.m.

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!!!

Posted by 1970mach1 (anonymous) on July 6, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.

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?

Posted by vinglass (anonymous) on July 6, 2013 at 6:46 p.m.

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???

Posted by kurtw (anonymous) on July 6, 2013 at 11:01 p.m.

1970mach- good points. Especially the first:

"...the concept of having someone UN-arrested is beyond belief..."

Beyond belief is right, but we'd better believe it because it happened. It's the kind of activity- overturning the law to benefit a crony- you would expect to find in a Banana Republic and not a Democracy. And that's how it's always been in Y-Town because what we have locally is not Democracy but One-Party Rule- The Local Democrat Machine- running things for their own benefit.

Until we change that- have a true Two Party System in the Valley- this kind of Bullcrap will occur again and again. Monopoly power is always bad- whether in politics or the Market Place.

I used this analogy before but it's so good I'm going to use it again: Picture yourself living in a town with only one grocery store- the people running that store have total control- over prices, quality of product, etc. Go to them and complain- what does that get you? Not much, because there isn't anywhere else to go for food.

That's the situation we are in in the Mahoning Valley- there's just one Political Party in charge- The Democrat Machine (the Davey Betras Gang) and that's why these people are so incredibly corrupt and arrogant. If we had a viable alternative (another Grocery Store- another Party- like the Republicans?) their tune would change in a heartbeat and life in the Valley would improve immeasurably for everyone- except the political gangsters we have running things now who might find themselves unemployed looking for honest work

Posted by kurtw (anonymous) on July 6, 2013 at 11:38 p.m.

Rush Limbaugh- I know a lot of people out there think Limbaugh is the "Devil Incarnate" and I don't agree with him on every issue- but he frequently uses a phrase I like very much- He talks about "Low-information" voters.

A Low Information Voter is the kind of voter I used to be. In 92 I picked "Slick Willy" over Bush the Elder. Why did I do that? Well, Clinton was the Democrat and Bush was the, you know, (yeech, ugh) Republican (read: "Devil with Horns"). In those days I voted a knee-jerk- straight Democrat ticket- you know, the idea of voting for a Republican simply never occurred to me. I was a classic low-information voter.

I ruled out the Republican choice because I had been programed to think Republicans were bad, rapacious people out to screw the working class- and my only "protectors" were the Dems. Later, when I informed myself and compared the history of the two parties since the Civil War Era, I reached a different conclusion. Suffice it to say, I reached the conclusion that the Dems- throughout their history- have often behaved more like organized criminals than anything else- nowhere more so than when they haven't any real opposition- as has been, and continues to be the case, in the Mahoning Valley- as the Sciortino Scandal illustrates.

Are we, in the Valley, "Low Information Voters"? If the Shoe Fits...

Posted by kurtw (anonymous) on July 7, 2013 at 1:20 a.m.

Also, another point to remember, if you want to be an informed voter, you need good information- I mean you need to know the Who, What, Why, When, Where, and How of what took place and it has to be reported accurately before you can make an informed choice. You see that in the above story. It beautifully illustrates the value of a Free Press.

In a Banana Republic (or a classic dictatorship- Stalin, Hitler, Mao) a story like the above would never have seen the light of day. It would be sent over to Democrat Headquarters for approval and they would have killed it - same way they squashed the Sciortino Arrest- and they might have done something unpleasant to the reporter as well.

So much for "multiculturalism", right.

Posted by 1970mach1 (anonymous) on July 7, 2013 at 2:54 p.m.

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.

Posted by kurtw (anonymous) on July 7, 2013 at 8:25 p.m.

Good point. The arresting officer was on the right track; he got derailed by his superiors for political reasons. They gave S. a break- putting it mildly, even giving him a ride home, which they would never do for an ordinary taxpayer- because they knew, or believed, they could get away with it.

In all these posts, mine, I believe, are the only ones that address the primary cause of the political corruption in the Mahoning Valley- the fact that we have a One Party System. It all comes back to that.

Posted by stoutmaster (anonymous) on July 14, 2013 at 12:46 p.m.

@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.

Posted by 1970mach1 (anonymous) on July 16, 2013 at 11:09 a.m.

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.

Posted by 1970mach1 (anonymous) on July 16, 2013 at 11:12 a.m.

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.

Posted by uptowngirl (anonymous) on July 17, 2013 at 4:57 p.m.

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.

Posted by lumper (anonymous) on July 17, 2013 at 9:10 p.m.

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.

Posted by CS43 (anonymous) on July 17, 2013 at 11:25 p.m.

LOL who is surprised

Posted by uptowngirl (anonymous) on July 18, 2013 at 5:58 p.m.

lumper--I think you may have something there!