Yavorcik facing time behind bars for ‘as bad as it gets’ criminal acts


On the side

Jane Portman, the wife of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, will be at the Mahoning County Republican Party’s new headquarters at 8381 Market St. in Boardman at 11 a.m. Saturday. The visit is part of a statewide get-out-the-vote effort by Portman’s campaign.

She will thank volunteers and give an update on her husband’s re-election. After that, volunteers will go door-to-door to gather information on what issues matter the most to locals in order to help the Portman campaign better target voters for the November general election.

Portman is seeking his second six-year term in the Senate this year. Ex-Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, is challenging Portman in the election. Polls and political handicappers show the race to be a toss-up.

This isn’t going to be a good day for Martin Yavorcik.

The failed 2008 independent candidate for Mahoning County prosecutor will be sentenced today on eight felonies.

Among those convictions is engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first-degree felony that Matthew E. Meyer, one of the government attorneys who prosecuted Yavorcik, described as: “For a nonviolent offense in Ohio, that’s as bad as it gets.”

Yavorcik also was found guilty March 25 of one count each of conspiracy and tampering with records, two counts of money laundering and three counts of bribery.

While Yavorcik faces up to 29 years in prison, he’s a first-time offender.

It’s almost a certainty that Judge Janet R. Burnside of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, who oversaw Yavorcik’s trial, will send him to prison.

The question is for how long.

My guess is it will be somewhere between two and six years.

It could have easily been avoided if Yavorcik took one of at least three plea bargains offered by prosecutors in his case.

Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally and ex-Mahoning County Auditor Michael V. Sciortino, both Democrats, were Yavorcik’s co-defendants in the Oakhill Renaissance Place conspiracy case.

The two cut deals less than three days before their trials were to start.

McNally pleaded guilty to four misdemeanors. Sciortino pleaded to one felony and two misdemeanors. That deal also included Sciortino pleading guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor in Mahoning County for illegally using county-owned computers for his political campaigns.

Judge Burnside sentenced both of them to one year of probation.

Yavorcik would have certainly received the same sentence.

Yavorcik was described by prosecutors as “not the brains behind the enterprise and offenses” in a presentation to him a month before the three co-defendants were indicted May 14, 2014. That meeting was to encourage him to resolve “this matter pre-indictment.”

At least two deals were offered to Yavorcik during his two-week trial.

As part of a deal, Yavorcik would have had to cooperate with law enforcement still investigating public corruption in the Mahoning Valley.

It’s not like that would have been an inconvenience for Yavorcik.

Prosecutors said Sciortino, who had to cooperate as part of his deal, lied when they interviewed him March 7 so they never called him as a witness in Yavorcik’s trial.

McNally testified for prosecutors in Yavorcik’s trial and he was of little to no help as a witness.

That didn’t change either of their sentences.

Yavorcik said he didn’t commit any crimes as part of the supposed Oakhill conspiracy. The initial part allegedly happened in 2006, and prosecutors never said Yavorcik had anything to do with that aspect.

But prosecutors successfully convinced a jury that a group of public officials – including McNally, then a county commissioner, and Sciortino – and attorneys illegally conspired with Anthony Cafaro Sr., then the president of his family-owned Cafaro Co. business, to stop Mahoning County from buying Oakhill Renaissance Place and moving its Department of Job and Family Services there from a building owned by a Cafaro Co. subsidiary.

The effort to halt the purchase and relocation failed.

Prosecutors said Yavorcik joined the conspiracy in 2008 and ran for county prosecutor in order to kill a criminal investigation into the Oakhill matter if he won. He lost by 38 percentage points.

Bribes

Prosecutors convinced jurors that Yavorcik not only planned to get rid of the Oakhill investigation if elected, but that he took about $140,000 in bribes, primarily from Cafaro, and the businessman’s brother, J.J., and sister, Flora.

Facing prison time, Yavorcik, an attorney who defended himself in the two-week trial, is throwing everything at Judge Burnside to delay today’s sentencing and get it dismissed.

Yavorcik sought to review grand jury testimony. The judge rejected the request calling it a “fishing expedition.”

He filed a motion for acquittal over venue because he was convicted in Cuyahoga County. However, prosecutors proved part of the conspiracy happened in Cuyahoga County.

Judge Burnside dismissed that too, writing “the motion begins with a false premise.”

Yavorcik asked to delay today’s sentencing so he could “obtain an alcohol assessment from a court-approved treatment facility and to obtain funds to secure an attorney [for an appeal] and trial transcript.” The judge rejected that request.

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