If convicted, 2 Valley lawyers, store owner face long sentences in extortion case
By Peter H. Milliken
Two Youngstown lawyers and a convenience-store owner indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of violating the Hobbs Act and obstructing justice potentially face spending the rest of their lives in a federal prison if they are convicted.
Atty. Scott Cochran, 43, of Austintown, and Atty. Neal Atway, 47, of Youngstown, are charged with two counts each of violating the Hobbs Act; two counts each of conspiracy to tamper with a witness, victim or informant; and one count each of making false statements to law enforcement.
The store owner, Mohd Rawhneh, 54, of Boardman, is charged with two counts of violating the Hobbs Act and one count of conspiracy to tamper with a witness, victim or informant.
The Hobbs Act counts allege extortion by the wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence or fear.
The maximum penalty is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Penalties for conspiracy to tamper with a witness, victim or informant also carries a 20-year prison term. The penalty for making false statements to law enforcement carries a prison term of five to eight years.
Cochran is a former president of the Mahoning County Bar Association. He and Atway are partners in the Atway & Cochran law firm in downtown Youngstown.
On Wednesday, Rawh-neh and Cochran each posted appearance bonds of $25,000, and Atway posted an appearance bond of $250,000, the day after they were indicted. Both lawyers and Rawhneh have surrendered their passports to the court.
Atway is represented by Atty. Dominic J. Coletta and Roger M. Synenberg of Cleveland and Atty. Samuel G. Amendolara of Boardman.
Cochran is represented by Attys. John B. Juhasz Jr. and Lynn A. Maro of Boardman.
Rawhneh is represented by Atty. Darin Thompson of the U.S. Public Defender’s Office in Cleveland and Atty. Frank J. Cimino of Ravenna.
The case is being prosecuted by Antoinette T. Bacon, an assistant U.S. attorney.
U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Gaughan in Cleveland is presiding over the case, in which no new court dates have been set.
The lawyers are charged with trying to extort money for Rawhneh from another convenience-store owner, Charles B. Muth, 42, of Canfield, a defendant in criminal cases, who was being represented by Atway and Cochran.
In a federal case, Muth got five months in prison for growing 100 marijuana plants in his residence.
In a state case, Muth was sentenced to 18 months in prison in a Dec. 28, 2011, shooting at the Boardman home of Rawhneh’s ex-wife, in which nobody was injured. At the time, Muth was having a business dispute with Rawhneh.
The indictment says Rawhneh and Atway led Muth to believe that, unless Rawhneh received money and property from Muth and Muth’s stores. Rawhneh would appear at Muth’s sentencings and communicate facts to the courts that could result in Muth’s receiving harsher sentences, according to the federal indictment.
Atway and Cochran are charged with lying to FBI agents investigating the case.