Cleveland judge denies request for postponement in Oakhill case
By David Skolnick
A judge overseeing a political corruption case has denied a request from Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino’s attorney to postpone today’s first pretrial hearing.
Sciortino, Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally and attorney Martin Yavorcik were indicted May 14 on a total of 83 criminal charges — including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and tampering with records.
An official in the office of Judge Janet R. Burnside of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court said Wednesday that the hearing will start at 9 a.m. today as scheduled.
The defendants are not required to attend the hearing, and the three aren’t expected to be there.
John Juhasz, who represents Sciortino, requested the postponement because he is defending Aubrey Toney in a capital murder case in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
In a Monday court filing, Juhasz asked the judge for a delay. His “best estimate” was the Toney case and a potential sentencing would likely be wrapped up in about two weeks.
Juhasz can handle the pretrial matters by telephone, the judge’s office said.
Lynn Maro, who represents McNally, will not travel to Cleveland and will participate in the hearing by phone.
Jennifer Scott, Yavorcik’s attorney, said she as well as lawyers from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the lead prosecutors, and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, assisting the AG, will meet in chambers with the judge.
“Usually not a whole lot happens at the first pretrial,” Scott said. “We’ll start with an initial discovery calendar.”
Scott said it’s possible but unlikely a trial date will be set today.
The indictment accuses McNally, during his time as a Mahoning County commissioner, Sciortino and Yavorcik of being among 23 people involved in a criminal enterprise that traded money and other financial benefits for political favors, lied under oath to protect business interests, and agreed to fix legal cases.
The other 20 haven’t been indicted.
While most of the alleged crimes in the indictment occurred in Mahoning County, some happened in Cuyahoga County, allowing the case to proceed in Cleveland. Also, at least two Cleveland-based law firms are among the 23 in the alleged criminal enterprise, according to the indictment.
The indictment specifically mentions an unnamed businessman’s effort to improperly use several public officials, including McNally and Sciortino, to keep the Mahoning County Job and Family Services department at a property his company owned.
Based on information in the indictment, a previous indictment and campaign finance reports, that businessman is likely Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., the former head of the Cafaro Co. retail development business.
McNally was the sole dissenter when the other county commissioners, Anthony Traficanti and David N. Ludt, voted in May 2006 in favor of relocating JFS from Cafaro’s Garland Plaza on Youngstown’s East Side to Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center.
The indictment contends McNally and Sciortino conspired and received benefits for opposing the relocation. Yavorcik is accused of accepting money from the businessman, Sciortino, McNally and others, and in exchange agreed not to investigate or prosecute members of the enterprise if he were elected prosecutor in 2008, the indictment claims.