Friday, May 20, 2016
By David Skolnick
A visiting judge said she just couldn’t let former Mahoning County Auditor Michael V. Sciortino “get away” with his repeated illegal use of county computers.
“You have to be punished because every county employee is going to be looking at this and [say], ‘Hey, he got a slap on the wrist and I can keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing and [nothing] happens,’” Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove said Thursday as she sentenced Sciortino to four to six months incarceration at a halfway house.
Sciortino was led out of the county courtroom in handcuffs by sheriff’s deputies at the conclusion of the sentencing hearing.
John B. Juhasz, his attorney, refused to comment to The Vindicator.
Sciortino, a Democrat from Austintown, pleaded guilty April 11 to two counts of unauthorized use of computer or telecommunications property – one is a felony and the other is a misdemeanor – as part of a plea deal he made Feb. 26 to resolve this case and one in Cuyahoga County.
The latter was for his involvement in the Oakhill Renaissance Place corruption scandal.
Judge Janet R. Burnside of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court sentenced Sciortino on March 28 to one year’s probation – he has to report only twice – after he pleaded guilty to a felony count of having an unlawful interest in a public contract, and two misdemeanors: falsification and receiving or soliciting improper compensation.
Judge Cosgrove, retired from Summit County Common Pleas Court, said probation will be different for Sciortino in the case she oversaw.
“You have to have some consequences,” she told Sciortino.
Sciortino will serve his sentence at the Community Corrections Association on Youngstown’s South Side. After that, Sciortino will have to report monthly for two years to the county probation office. He also was ordered to do 30 hours of community service.
Sciortino could get out of CCA after four months for good behavior. If there are problems, he will serve up to six months.
A former lawyer working at his family’s Dunkin’ Donuts business, Sciortino can leave CCA only to go to work and to attend alcohol-addiction recovery meetings, Judge Cosgrove said.
“Your fall from grace has been meteoric,” she said before sentencing Sciortino. “You had a law license, and now you work as a manager at a doughnut shop. It doesn’t get any worse than that.”
Sciortino has admitted he had a drinking problem and said he went into an alcohol rehabilitation program right after his May 14, 2014, indictment in Cuyahoga County.
Sciortino said he “carried around a lot of anger and a lot of resentment” during the Oakhill investigation. He added he now realizes it “was my actions” that caused his problems.
At one point during the sentencing, Judge Cosgrove said to Sciortino, “Are you smirking at me or what?”
Sciortino was. He responded, “No, your honor. Sorry.”
Sciortino was indicted June 4, 2015, in Mahoning County on 25 felonies: 21 counts of unauthorized use of computer or telecommunication property and four counts of theft in office.
Court documents state Sciortino illegally used county-owned computers and other equipment more than 300 times for political purposes and his personal DJ/band business and law practice, and had three employees help him.
The deal had him plead guilty to illegally using a county computer twice for golf fundraisers in 2010 and 2012 for his political campaigns.
Sciortino said he started using county computers when his personal computer stopped working.
Prosecutors say Sciortino used the county computers between Oct. 6, 2005, and Aug. 29, 2012.
“I was fully aware of our policies that were in place” forbidding the use of county computers for outside businesses and politics, he said.
“I thought it was harmless” to use it a few times, but “that was wrong,” he said.
Judge Cosgrove interrupted him saying, “Let’s not gild the lily. You saved 500 files. You also used it for campaign purposes, golf outings and your law practice.”
Sciortino apologized again and mentioned that other county employees use government-owned computers for personal use. He didn’t disclose the names of any of them.
Sciortino is prohibited from having a public-sector job for seven years as part of his conviction. He said he has no plans to ever return. He’s also not permitted to drink alcohol or even go into a bar or tavern during his sentence and then while on probation.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which prosecuted the case, didn’t give a recommendation on Sciortino’s sentencing as part of his plea agreement.
Sciortino had faced 11 felonies and six misdemeanors in Cuyahoga County including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy, bribery, tampering with records and money laundering. The plea reduced that to one felony and two misdemeanors.
Sciortino was accused of being part of a criminal enterprise to illegally stop or impede Mahoning County’s purchase of Oakhill, the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center.
Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally, a Democrat in his previous capacity as a Mahoning County commissioner, and Martin Yavorcik, a failed 2008 independent candidate for county prosecutor, were found guilty in the Oakhill probe.
McNally, who was in the courtroom Thursday to support Sciortino, pleaded guilty to four misdemeanors as part of a deal before the trial and received one year’s probation.
Yavorcik went to trial and was convicted of eight felonies. He was sentenced to five years’ probation with the first year on house arrest. He’s appealing his conviction.