Wednesday, February 15, 2017
By David Skolnick
Nearly a year after he was sentenced to five years’ probation for his involvement in the Oakhill Renaissance Place corruption scandal and only a few weeks before his house arrest is to end, Martin Yavorcik will return to court March 28.
The two key components of his verdict – being found guilty of eight felonies, and not being sent to prison for his crimes – will be the focus of arguments in front of a three-member panel of the Cleveland-based 8th District Court of Appeals.
The three appellate judges assigned to the case are Sean C. Gallagher, Kathleen Ann Keough and Anita Laster Mays. Judge Keough has ties to the Mahoning Valley as she earned her bachelor of arts degree in English and history from Youngstown State University.
Judge Janet R. Burnside of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court sentenced Yavorcik on April 22, 2016, to five years’ probation, including the first year on house arrest as well as having his law license suspended for five years, requiring him to undergo alcohol-abuse treatment, 200 hours of community service, and ordering him to serve a seven-year prison sentence if he violates any of the conditions while on probation.
His house arrest started shortly after his conviction.
David L. Doughten, Yavorcik’s attorney, argued in a court filing last month that his client shouldn’t go to prison as he “was sufficiently punished and the public was protected from future crime without unnecessary burden on state or government resources.”
Matthew E. Meyer, a Cuyahoga County assistant prosecutor, wrote in a December filing that Judge Burnside’s sentence “was contrary to law and should be reversed.” Prosecutors had sought a prison sentence for Yavorcik of five to nine years.
Also, Doughten has requested Yavorcik’s convictions be dismissed because of errors made by Judge Burnside. Meyer has counted that no errors were made by the judge during the trial and that the convictions should be upheld.
After the judge’s decision, Yavorcik said he was surprised that he wasn’t sentenced to prison; he asked for probation, insisting: “I haven’t committed a crime whatsoever,” but admitting, “I made some dumb decisions.”
He also said that day that he would appeal his convictions while prosecutors said they intended to appeal the sentence. Both followed through.
Yavorcik, a failed 2008 independent Mahoning County prosecutor candidate, was found guilty of eight felonies: one count each of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy and tampering with records, two counts of money laundering and three counts of bribery.
Prosecutors alleged a conspiracy started in 2006 to impede the move of Mahoning County’s Department of Job and Family Services from a Cafaro Co. subsidiary-owned property on Youngstown’s East Side to the county-owned Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center.
Yavorcik joined the conspiracy in 2008 when he ran for prosecutor. The jury convicted Yavorcik of illegally taking about $140,000 in bribes to kill the Oakhill 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 and were each sentenced to a year’s probation.