By joe gorman
The report released Tuesday about the May 26 traffic stop by Mahoning County sheriff’s deputies of Auditor Michael Sciortino is being forwarded to the office of state Attorney General Mike DeWine.
Prosecutor Paul Gains and Sheriff Jerry Greene made the decision after a meeting Wednesday in Gains’ office, where they went over the report compiled by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
Sciortino was pulled over late May 26 on suspicion of driving under the influence and then a sheriff’s department supervisor drove Sciortino home.
It also was revealed Tuesday that two FBI agents interviewed Sciortino during the course of the probe. Vicki Anderson, an FBI spokeswoman in Cleveland, said Wednesday the interview had nothing to do with the traffic stop. She would not say what the interview was about or if an agency requested the interview.
When asked why the interview took place during the investigation, Anderson said, “The opportunity presented itself.”
Greene also would not disclose why the FBI interviewed Sciortino, although investigators were given a copy of the interview, which was not given to the news media when the report was released Tuesday. Greene said he received the FBI report as a courtesy, but it was stated that the report is the property of the FBI and not to be given out.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office report said the FBI interview was part of the traffic stop investigation, however.
Lt. Joseph Rusov, one of the investigators involved in the report, did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday.
Gains said the report is being forwarded to see if any action should be taken against Sciortino or the three sheriff’s department personnel who were disciplined in the report.
Greene suspended patrol supervisor Maj. Jeffrey Allen for 10 days without pay for his role.
T.J. Assion was demoted from lieutenant to sergeant for telling the arresting deputy to take Sciortino out of handcuffs. Assion then drove Sciortino home in Sciortino’s car. The demotion will reduce Assion’s salary by $19,000.
The deputy who performed the stop, Sgt. James Touville, also will be disciplined. But because he is a member of the deputies’ union, his discipline will be handled through the process dictated in the union contract.
The report states that Sciortino failed a field sobriety test and was handcuffed by Touville, before Assion told Touville to uncuff him. Assion came to the scene after Allen called him. Allen was called by a supervisor whom Touville had called, the report said.
Sciortino did not return a message seeking comment but did issue a statement saying: “I am deeply regretful for the unfortunate circumstances that evening. I know that I let myself, family, friends, supporters and office down, and for that I am sorry.”
He also apologized to the families of the deputies who were involved.
Investigators said Sciortino never requested special treatment. He was cited for a marked-lanes violation and paid a fine and court costs in Mahoning County Court in Canfield.
Jill Del Greco, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office, said the office normally would use the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation to handle such a case, but because an investigation already was completed, the special prosecution section probably will review the findings and consider what action, if any, should be taken.
She said her agency typically gets requests from law enforcement to investigate or review conduct of law-enforcement personnel or public officials.
Mahoning County commissioners also weighed in on the report after their weekly meeting Wednesday.
“The sheriff handled it the best that he could,” said Commissioner Anthony Traficanti.
Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti agreed.
Commissioner David Ditzler said it’s an unfortunate situation but he doesn’t believe it’s affected Sciortino’s job performance. Sciortino has attended meetings with commissioners.
“Mike didn’t ask for special treatment,” Ditzler said.
He said he’s been pulled over for speeding and been issued a warning rather than a ticket and doesn’t know if that’s because he’s a public official.
If a member of the general public had been in the situation Sciortino reportedly was in that night, though, he or she likely wouldn’t have been cut the same slack, he said.
Public officials should be treated equally, and Ditzler said that’s the message he hopes was sent in the way Greene handled the situation.
Vindicator staff writer Denise Dick contributed to this report