Prosecutor: Yavorcik should go to prison for convictions in Oakhill case
Judge’s decision was not consistent with sentences in similar cases, motion says
By David Skolnick
A prosecutor contends a judge’s decision to not send Martin Yavorcik to prison for his involvement in the Oakhill Renaissance Place corruption scandal “was highly inconsistent with similar sentences committed by other offenders for similar crimes.”
The sentence of five years’ probation for Yavorcik by Judge Janet R. Burnside of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, who oversaw the case, “was contrary to law and should be reversed,” wrote Matthew E. Meyer, an assistant county prosecutor, in a 30-page motion filed with the 8th District Court of Appeals in Cleveland.
Prosecutors wanted Judge Burnside to sentence Yavorcik, a failed 2008 independent candidate for Mahoning County prosecutor, to five to nine years in prison during his April 22 sentencing. His probation includes serving the first year on house arrest. He also had his law license suspended for the five years he is on probation.
In Monday’s motion, Meyer wrote: “Rather than give Yavorcik prison for trying to sell his elected office to criminals, the trial court gave Yavorcik even less than the proverbial ‘slap on the wrist’ when it sentenced him to community-control sanctions.”
Meyer pointed to a few recent cases in Cuyahoga County, including two lawyers convicted of bribery who each received a year in prison, stating what Yavorcik did was “far more serious and deserved a greater punishment. Yavorcik was a member of a criminal organization whose stated aims were the corruption and subversion of the entire criminal-justice system in Mahoning County.”
Yavorcik’s sentence also, Meyer wrote, “demeans the seriousness of the conduct and sends a message to other offenders that in Cuyahoga County, corruption offenses are not taken seriously.”
Meyer requested the appeals court order Judge Burnside to resentence Yavorcik.
After his sentencing, Yavorcik said he agreed with the judge giving him probation, but objected to being sentenced to eight felonies. Yavorcik is appealing his conviction.
Prosecutors say a conspiracy started in 2006 to impede the move of Mahoning County’s Department of Job and Family Services from a Cafaro Co.-owned property on Youngstown’s East Side to the county-owned Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center.
A jury found Yavorcik guilty of joining the conspiracy in 2008 when he ran for prosecutor. The jury convicted Yavorcik for illegally taking about $140,000 in bribes to kill the Oak-hill investigation if he was elected. He lost that election by 38 percentage points to incumbent Democrat Paul J. Gains.
Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally, in his previous capacity as a Mahoning County commissioner, and ex-county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino, both Democrats, took plea deals in the Oakhill case before the trial started and were each sentenced to a year’s probation.
In his Sept. 22 appeal, Yavorcik contended his conviction should be dismissed because of seven errors made by Judge Burnside and that five of the errors should either reverse or dismiss the convictions, and two others would call for a new trial.
In his response, Meyer refuted the claims that the seven errors were made.