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Will AG DeWine take action?

Published: Sun, March 31, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

An open letter to Ohio Attorney General (and former county prosecutor) Mike DeWine.

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

Dare it be said? Mahoning County needs “DeWine intervention” (Come on, it’s Easter). Seriously, though, it has been about nine months since the state was forced to drop criminal charges against several public officials and a prominent businessman because the federal government refused to hand over the results of 2,000 hours of wiretaps and other audio and visual surveillance. The feds have acknowledged that their investigation intersects with the state’s probe of government corruption in Mahoning County.

There were unconfirmed reports of a federal grand jury in Cleveland preparing indictments to be handed down this month. But we enter April with no action on the part of the U.S. attorney’s office.

Hence, this letter to you.

As Ohio’s top lawyer — and a former county prosecutor with an impressive record of convictions — your involvement in this case is essential.

The state criminal charges were not dropped because the special prosecutors concluded that they had a weak case. They were forced to throw in the towel because the feds revealed the existence of the surveillance and refused to turn over what they had to defense lawyers.

The list

The defendants were: Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., former president of the Cafaro Co.; former county Commissioner John A. McNally IV; county Auditor Michael Sciortino; former Treasurer John Reardon; and, former director of the Department of Job and Family Services John Zachariah.

It is noteworthy that McNally is running for mayor of Youngstown this year and has been endorsed by the county Democratic Party in the primary.

The state’s case was triggered by the political battle over the relocation of the JFS offices from the Cafaro Co.- owned Garland Plaza to the county-owned Oakhill Renaissance Place (the former South Side Medical Center). Two of the three commissioners voted for the relocation, but McNally joined other county officials in opposition.

It took about two years for the Ohio Ethics Commission to go through all the evidence in the case before deciding that criminal charges, including racketeering, were warranted.

This case demands closure, given the Mahoning Valley’s history of government corruption.

Mr. Attorney General, you are no doubt aware that in the not too distant past 70 officeholders, including a prosecutor, sheriff and judges, were convicted of accepting bribes from mobsters, businessmen and others.

Government corruption is a millstone around the Mahoning Valley’s neck.

It is unfortunate that the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland has not gone after the individuals detected in the surveillance. You can right that wrong.

This is not about harassing upstanding citizens of the area, as some apologists for Cafaro et al contend. And it certainly is not about pulling evidence out of thin air. To believe that is to believe two special prosecutors are guilty of prosecutorial misconduct.

Just to be clear, the charges against the county officials and the prominent businessman were not filed on a whim.

Therefore, they should not be dismissed on a whim.

The federal government’s inaction is disappointing, but not surprising. The U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI are not answerable to the public. As a result, they operate in total secrecy.

Public interest

Mr. Attorney General, you have the ability to persuade U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach in Cleveland to turn over the results of the 2,000 hours of surveillance to you. The information is of public interest. Who were the primary and secondary targets? Why was the surveillance launched?

There must be accountability. That’s what the residents of the Mahoning Valley deserve and want. For too long, government in the region has catered to individuals who have not had the best interest of the community at heart.

The time has come to close the book on our sordid history.

Attorney General DeWine, there is another compelling reason for you to evaluate this case: Former Commissioner McNally could well win the mayoral race. It will not serve the city well if he has a dark cloud hanging over his head.


11970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago


This link is to article from Cuyahoga County where US Attorney released statement that "pubic Official #14" Ed Fitzgerald is not a target of investigation.

Why is it too much to ask for the feds to do the same here? Either release statement saying these people are no longer targets like they did in Cuyahoga County or file charges.

This area needs closure on the issue.

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2rjohnbro(9 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

You can't expect a corrupt AG from Ohio, to go after a brother in crime. There all political evils and they keep together!!! That's why we all went south ,political Mafia is alive and prospering on your dollars !

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31970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

When I first read this column it came across as though Bertram is resigned to nothing happening.

However, until former county treasurer Lisa Antoninni is sentenced or her guilty plea is changed, some sort of investigation must be on going. Right?

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4greevey(23 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

Bertram's Top Ten Reasons For Recycling This Story Again and Again and Again Even Though Nobody Else Cares:

10. YSU hasn't selected a new president, so he can't vilify anyone there...yet!
9. His rants about the Covelli Centre being a waste of money were proven wrong.....it's making money now and is the primary catalyst for the downtown's revival.
8. It's Easter Sunday...even for Bertram it would seem sacrilegious to pick on the Catholic Church & Bishop Murray today.
7. Writing about Trafficant got old....at least after his 123rd article.
6. He recently bought the Godfather Trilogy DVD and now believes the Corleone family is controlling all Mahoning Valley politicians.
5. He hasn't had an original idea for a story since Bill Clinton was in office.
4. His "inside sources" are characters like James Callen.
3. His drinking buddy is Paul Gains.
2. It's a lot easier to continue to sensationalize & recycle this story than actually investigate the $20+ million boondoggle that has become Oakhill.
1. He has long suffered from a Napoleonic complex. He compensates for his personal inadequacies by attacking others rather than promoting the positives of the community.

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5jmagaratz(189 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

Time for Bertram to retire....need to employ an intelligent political columnist who will improve the commentary about local politics....

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6Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

You know, you really do give a lot of crap to the Cafaro Family who has invested more money in the Mahoning Valley than you will in 1,000 lifetimes Bertram.

This looks like a witch hunt if I ever saw one, the Feds and the AG can't make a case when there isn't a case to be made. The Feds tried to trump up some charges, that at best could be considered flimsy, because the targets were high profile--and being in Mahoning County, they love the high profile stuff because deep down I think they were hoping to make another high profile case that could make national news like they did in 1999.

And they just couldn't pull it off again.

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7TERRAPINST(320 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

To Greevey: Quite possibly the most accurate post ever written on this board. de Souza prays that our area's politicians are indicted instead of praying that they are not as a means of erasing a dark cloud. Wouldn't no indictments be a more positive waaay of clearing our image. I truly believe he's lost his mind to hate. His colleagues who were talented enough to be hired in other markets continually state his lack of news sense and his almost irrational vendettas as the reason he has been trapped at this rag for decades. In my opinion he's nuts and sadistic in the way he feels he's the areas judge and jury on integrity- ever here anything about his personal life? Trainwreck.

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8oef0102(5 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

I disagree with the negative comments alluding to De Souza's incompetance. I in fact, see his articles as something Youngstown needs: integrity in local politicians (something McNally undoubtedly lacks). Bertram puts it out there as it is. How strange is it that the journalist who broke the Watergate scandal will be speaking this week in Youngstown? Will anyone ask the question that a parallel might be drawn between the 2000 hours of wire taps now safely sealed and that of the audio tapes that unseated Nixon?
If Youngstowners put McNally in office they will relish our rich tradition of corruption, scandal, and the dubiously run political machine while giving a fresh black-eye to the Valley.

Mr. De Souza, continue to expose things how they really are, your editiorials are one of the last few usefuil portions of the Vindicator.

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9ipaidattention(68 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

Cafaro owns both candidates in this race, why do you think betras hasn't forced tito brown to resign for "party unity"? Why is he not going after anyone in the party working for brown? He was all about it when it was macejko versus the man the cafaro's cannot bribe! There's a reason betras has an office in their mall, it's all in the suitcases....

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10TERRAPINST(320 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

To oef0102 and Ididntpayattention; Why does McNally lack integrity when he has never even had a case good enough to come to trial against him let alone convict him. If the 2000 hours of tape are so crucial how did the individuals get indicted without them-answer- WITCH HUNT POLITICAL VENDETTA. It's been two years and people who say they want the community to do well are praying politicians are convicted. Again, isn't it better for the area if our politicians aren't convicted? Maybe its me but it doesn't seem like Bertram and others give a damn about the community-they just hate the individuals and thus far without a shred of proof.

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111970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

There seems to be a "McNally is wonderful" versus "McNally is evil" debate regarding Oak Hill.

Just because he was charged doesn't mean he was guilty, and just because charges were dropped doesn't mean he was innocent.

Feds should either charge people or move on and say they are done. Leaving everything in limbo is too disruptive for community.

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12TERRAPINST(320 comments)posted 3 years, 2 months ago

1970mach-Not being charged or convicted is exactly what being innocent is in our system of justice. So you and Bertram can get some closure just know that if McNally is never charged they couldn't PROVE he did anything wrong. Remember that little notion of innocent until PROVEN guilty-I know you're not big on that but it's how the law works. By the way, why don't you just call the FBI and tell them how upset you are, I'm sure they'll get right on it. You don't care about the community-you just want McNally to be hurt. In November when he becomes Mayor that will pretty much prove the community is fine with him right? You'll be gracious and apologize for being wrong then huh?

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13Roger_Thornhill(1063 comments)posted 2 years ago

Hey Terrapinist:

How is your whole little theory working out for you, huh?

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