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Disciplinary hearing imminent for sergeant who stopped auditor

Published: Wed, July 17, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken



A predisciplinary hearing is today for Sgt. James Touville of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office concerning his conduct in a May 26 traffic stop of county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino and his arrest and “unarrest” of the auditor on a potential drunken-driving charge.

Sgt. Thomas Assion, who then held the rank of commander, suggested to Touville that he abort the arrest in Canfield Township. Assion then drove his friend, Sciortino, home in the auditor’s car.

Sheriff Jerry Greene demoted Assion from commander to his previous rank of sergeant, cutting Assion’s pay by $19,000 a year, because of the Sciortino incident.

The sheriff said he did not believe Assion’s conduct at the traffic stop rose to the level of obstructing justice.

Information culled from Assion’s personnel file shows commendations for exceptional service but also the fact he was fired in 2008. He got his job back that same year in a settlement agreement.

Touville’s hearing will be at 10 a.m. at the sheriff’s office, with Karen U’Halie, county human resources director, serving as hearing officer.

Greene sent Touville a letter alleging he violated the canons of police ethics, failed to properly perform his duties and failed to take proper action, all contained in the sheriff office’s general orders.

In a July 2 news conference, the sheriff said Touville should have insisted on taking Sciortino, who had failed the field-sobriety test Touville administered, to the Canfield police station for a Breathalyzer test.

The sheriff also said he did not believe Touville could escape responsibility for his actions by contending he was simply following Assion’s orders.

Greene had the case investigated by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office to avoid any bias, and the matter is now before the special prosecutions unit of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

At the hearing, Touville will have the opportunity to respond to the allegations against him. He could face suspension, reduction in rank or be fired.

Touville stopped Sciortino on U.S. Route 224 near Raccoon Road after an employee of a nearby Wendy’s called 911 to report a possibly impaired driver, who had apparently fallen asleep behind the wheel after ordering food in the drive-thru lane.

Assion went to the traffic stop scene at 12:10 a.m. after Touville initiated a series of calls that went up the chain of command.

The sheriff suspended Maj. Jeff Allen for 10 days without pay for failing to immediately notify the sheriff of what happened.

Sciortino, 42, of Austintown, paid a $50 fine and $80 in court costs after being cited only for failure to drive within marked lanes.

A check of the personnel file of Assion, who became a deputy in 2001, reveals both commendations and disciplinary actions.

In 2002 and 2003, Sheriff Randall Wellington received letters of commendation concerning Assion from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for Assion’s dedication to his training and work in ATF’s Armed Criminal Enforcement Squad in Youngstown.

During the financial crisis presented by the county’s on-again, off-again sales tax, Assion agreed in 2005 to take a two-week voluntary layoff.

The following year, Wellington commended him for assisting in the rescue of a shooting victim.

Later in 2006, Assion received a verbal warning for being 12 minutes late for in-service training.

Wellington fired Assion and another deputy, over their involvement in a 1:15 a.m., May 16, 2008, incident, in which Boardman police were called to the Lanai Lounge because of gunfire in the parking lot and found a spent shell in that lot.

A third deputy, who reportedly showed off his badge and gun while intoxicated in the bar, resigned after the incident. Having been promoted to sergeant in 2007, Assion was assigned to night shift in the county jail and supervised the other two deputies during 2008.

Because of the three deputies’ conflicting statements concerning the Boardman incident, Assion and the other deputy were ordered to take polygraph exams, but both refused. The sheriff fired them after a pre-disciplinary hearing, in which they presented no testimony in their defense.

Having been fired July 15, 2008, and with a binding-arbitration hearing scheduled, Assion was reinstated as a sergeant in a settlement agreement Nov. 25 of that year. The firing was changed to a two-week unpaid suspension, and Assion was awarded $18,807 in back pay for the rest of the time between his termination and reinstatement.

In 2010, J. Michael Thompson, then an assistant county prosecutor, and Wellington commended Assion for his assistance in getting a jury to convict a county jail inmate of vandalism and disrupting public services for breaking a fire-suppression sprinkler head in the jail.

When he took office upon Wellington’s retirement in January this year, Greene promoted Assion from sergeant to commander.

When he became a deputy, Assion signed a code of ethics that said he could not allow “personal feelings, prejudices, animosities or friendships to influence the discretionary authorities entrusted to my job.”


1PCakes(2 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

As a young boy to now,TJ Assion never had good judgement.

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2Crazygal05(11 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

All the way around it everyone screwed up but watch Touville be fired...he should if he kept calling for advice on how to handle the Auditor's duo...if it was Assion who started with the forgo duo then he should be fired...croonies..

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3121465(6 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

It seems that assion has a lot of leeway. He needs to be gone.

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4UNCOMMONSENSE(565 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

They both should be fired and Sciortino should step down. Mahoning County does not need a two tier justice system.

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51970mach1(1005 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

"Mahoning County does not need a two tier justice system."

Wow. UNCOMMONSENSE that is a really good phrase. Wish I'd have thought of that.

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6TheTruth4U(20 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Simply amazing how the vindicator can make twenty headlines out of a single story. They get on an issue and just keep ripping at it day after day.

They have been against labor and then public employees for years. Column after column.

Then they got a hold of the men who disagreed with the Oakhill purchase and made them into criminals. Now they tell you all that the reason the trial was dismissed was because the 'evidence' that the FBI had could not be used! What a crock, they didn't even know that alleged evidence existed before the charges were filed, so why was it necessary to have it to proceed?

Answer, it wasn't. What was really going to happen on the morning of the case's dismissal was that the defense was going to charge the prosecution with misconduct! And they had the evidence for that! So the prosecution asked for the case to be dismissed and lied about the reason why. And you all bought their reasons hook, line and sinker. Now they continue their persecution of those men one-by-one and you all help them along. What sheeple!

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7walter_sobchak(2418 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

You must work for one of these politcal hacks. Whether the prosecutor needed the evidence to prove the case or not, once the knowledge of it is out there, it must be turned over on discovery. The defendant's counsel would rightly claim that the FBI tapes could exonerate their clients and the withholding of them prevents them from seeking justice. Still doesn't change the facts in the case that a rich citizen "loaned" money to officeholders and they received inside info from those people (quid pro quo) to try to manintain a sweetheart deal where the taxpayers were being ripped off. Now, as far as this situation goes, do you think that, if this was an ordinary working stiff that was passed out in his car and subsequently pulled over for an illegal lane change, they would have a county limo driven by a sheriff's officer drive them home so they could sleep it off? Ive had family and friends caught with low level DUI's and they were cuffed and given a night in the clink. This is obstruction of justice and they should all be fired, starting with Assion who has a track record.

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8vinglass(283 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

....and "Magic Mike" walks away scott free to drive drunk another day....
Did you hear Joe Bell (Cafaro puppet) on the radio today, trying to minimize Sciotino's culpability?? Called damage control.

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9DwightK(1458 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Shouldn't some unnamed business man be handing out "loans" of envelopes stuffed with cash that will make this problem go away?

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