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Commander went to traffic stop to get auditor out of a DUI



Published: Tue, July 16, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

Ex-commander told investigators auditor is ‘a good friend’

By Peter H. Milliken

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Sgt. Thomas J. Assion, formerly a commander in the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, told investigators “his sole purpose” in going to the scene of a May 26 Canfield Township traffic stop “was to get Michael Sciortino out of a DUI,” and that he got involved because Sciortino, county auditor, is “a good friend” of his.

Those comments were released Monday by the sheriff’s office, but Sheriff Jerry Greene said he had nothing to add to his previous statement that he was first furious, and then embarrassed, over the incident, in which Assion drove Sciortino home in Sciortino’s car.

Sciortino, 42, of Austintown, paid a $50 fine and $80 in court costs after being charged only with failing to drive within marked lanes. Assion said he asked Sgt. James Touville of the sheriff’s office to cite Sciortino for the marked-lanes offense.

Assion said he telephoned Touville, who made the traffic stop, asking Touville if Assion could take Sciortino home — and if Touville would “forgo the DUI thing,” and that Touville agreed to do so.

Touville had informed Assion that he already had radioed to the dispatcher that he had made an arrest on suspicion of drunken driving. Touville made the stop after an employee of the Canfield Wendy’s called 911 to report her concerns about a possibly impaired driver, who apparently had fallen asleep after leaving the drive-through lane.

When he arrived at the scene of the traffic stop on U.S. Route 224 near Raccoon Road at 12:10 a.m., Assion said he perceived Sciortino to be “out of it and drunk.”

Sciortino declined to comment beyond his previous apology for letting his friends, family and supporters down. Assion and Touville could not be reached for comment.

“Commander Assion stated the truth is Michael Sciortino was drunk and Sgt. Touville, as his friend, agreed to release Michael Sciortino and not arrest him for DUI,” the investigative report from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office said.

After driving Sciortino home, Assion said he texted sheriff’s Maj. Jeff Allen that Sciortino was “home safe.” It was Allen who first alerted Assion after Allen got a call from Lt. Stephen McGeary. McGeary had received a call from Touville.

Because of this incident, Greene demoted Assion from commander to Assion’s previous rank of sergeant, resulting in a $19,000 annual pay cut for Assion.

The sheriff suspended Allen for 10 days without pay for failing to immediately inform the sheriff about what happened.

Touville told investigators Sciortino “failed miserably” on the field sobriety test, had “a slurred to mush mouth speech” and fumbled for his driver’s license, but did not smell of alcohol.

Touville is facing the departmental disciplinary procedure prescribed by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141 union contract. Touville should have insisted on taking Sciortino to the Canfield police station for a Breathalyzer test, Greene said.

As far as he knew, Greene said Sciortino never asked for any favors during the traffic stop.

Assion and the other sheriff’s department personnel involved in the Sciortino case were interviewed by investigators from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. That office probed the matter at Greene’s request because Greene said he wanted to avoid any bias.

After Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains referred the matter to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, a spokeswoman for that office said the matter has been referred to the AG’s special prosecutions unit.

In a July 2 news conference, Greene said he did not think Assion’s behavior rose to the level of obstructing justice.

Assion told the investigators he had never before been called in reference to a patrol division drunken-driving arrest and that he had made a mistake in judgment, which “gave the department a negative spotlight.”

Assion told the investigators the suggestion Sciortino may have had a medical problem was presented to him “days after the incident” and that Touville never advised Assion of any medical issues with Sciortino at the time of the traffic stop.

Two days after the traffic stop, Assion told investigators he asked Touville to come to his residence, and instructed Touville “not to cover anything up” because the sheriff had sought an outside investigation and the FBI also was investigating.

The Summit County investigators said FBI agents interviewed Sciortino on May 31 about the traffic stop, but Greene declined to release the FBI report of the interview that had been provided to him.

An FBI spokeswoman said the agents’ interview with Sciortino did not pertain to the traffic stop, but declined to specify the subject matter of the interview.


Comments

1gdog4766(1489 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

The MCSD is corrupt from top to bottom. Hopefully after further investigation the Feds will step in and flush this toilet once and for all.

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21970mach1(1005 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Why are these statements just now being released?
These just now released statements make Greene look terrible. Wish one of the other guys would have won the sheriff's race.
Keep asking questions Vindy.....

Only 7 months until filing deadline for auditor's race, correct?

Suggest removal:

3Crazygal05(11 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Poor Touville is being thrown in the fire...a commander asks you if you will let him take the drunk home and forgo the duo; what are you to do? On one hand against the law and the other your superior is asking this? Then after you let him he says "don't cover anything up" two days later, how is he going to fix it? I am not happy with my interaction with the MCSD, they were to investigate but didn't....and now turning on their own to save their own jobs....pure disgust with them

Suggest removal:

4valleypolitics(88 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

Pleeease! We have had this type of local government for decades. No one gives a s__t except the Vindicator since these stories sell their terrible newspaper.

And the people throwing stones at Mike should be careful, some of them held back information from the FBI during past investigations. You know what happens when you lie to the FBI?

I'm thinking some local attorneys involved in politics should start s__tting in their pants.

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