Mark Belinky, the former Mahoning County Probate Court judge found guilty of tampering with records, will be sentenced July 9 on the third-degree felony count.
Belinky, a Democrat, could face a maximum prison sentence of 18 months. However, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which prosecuted the case, recommended Belinky be sentenced to community-control supervision and not prison. The final decision rests with Visiting Judge Ronald Suster, a retired Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge overseeing this case.
As part of the deal struck with the attorney general’s office, Belinky is continuing to cooperate with the government.
Investigators from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and other law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, served search warrants at Belinky’s Boardman home and his office at the courthouse Feb. 7. Among the items seized were bank, tax and campaign finance records.
J. Gerald Ingram, Belinky’s attorney, and the AG’s office worked out a plea deal. Belinky’s March 14 resignation, his quitting the Democratic primary for the seat, and surrendering his law license were part of the deal.
A bill of information states that Belinky failed to record more than $7,500 but less than $150,000 in contributions, expenditures or loans to his campaign fund between Oct. 23 and Dec. 10, 2008.
The document doesn’t provide any information about the conviction, but a lawsuit and Belinky’s 2008 post-general election report sheds some light.
Mike Pallotta of Naples, Fla., filed a lawsuit Jan. 22, 2013, against Belinky who failed to pay a $20,000 loan. The money was borrowed Oct. 14, 2008, and was supposed to be repaid by the end of the year. Belinky gave $5,000 to his judicial campaign Oct. 23, 2008, the first date on his bill of information, and then $15,000 a day later. His post-primary election campaign report states the money came from him.
Belinky had his paycheck garnished last year because of the $20,000 loan plus more than $7,000 interest.
After Belinky resigned, the Ohio Supreme Court appointed Visiting Judge R.R. Clunk of Alliance to hear cases in the probate court until Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, appoints someone to fill out the remainder of the term, which ends in February 2015.
The three finalists are Robert Rusu, Mary Ann Fabrizi and Christopher Sammarone. Susan Maruca, who beat Sammarone by 200 votes in last month’s Democratic primary, had sought the appointment, but a county Republican Party screening committee chose the other three. Maruca will face Rusu and Fabrizi, who are running as independent candidates in the November general election.