Although acknowledging there’s a presumption of prison time for those convicted of first-degree felonies, Martin Yavorcik’s attorney argues the trial judge made the right decision in not imposing such a sentence on his client, convicted in the Oak- hill Renaissance Place corruption scandal.
In a filing with the Cleveland-based 8th District Court of Appeals, David L. Doughten, Yavorcik’s attorney, wrote that his client “was sufficiently punished and the public was protected from future crime without unnecessary burden on state or government resources.”
Judge Janet R. Burnside of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court sentenced Yavorcik on April 22, 2016, to five years of probation, including one year of house arrest as well as having his law license suspended for five years, requiring him to undergo alcohol-abuse treatment and ordering him to serve a seven-year prison sentence if he violates any of the conditions while on probation.
“The state has not demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that the record does not support the sentence,” Doughten wrote.
A Cuyahoga County prosecutor wrote last month in a filing with the appeals court that Judge Burnside’s sentence “was highly inconsistent with similar sentences committed by other offenders for similar crimes,” and “was contrary to law and should be reversed.”
Prosecutors wanted the judge to sentence Yavorcik to five to nine years in prison during his sentencing.
Doughten asked the appeals court in his Monday filing to not change the sentence or send it back to Judge Burnside for her to resentence Yavorcik.
A jury found Yavorcik, who defended himself, 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. Engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity is a first-degree felony.
The jury agreed with prosecutors that Yavorcik took about $140,000 in bribes – nearly all of it from Flora, J.J. and Anthony Cafaro Sr., former executives with the Cafaro Co. shopping center business – when he ran as an independent candidate in 2008 for Mahoning County prosecutor.
The money, prosecutors said, was to kill a criminal investigation into the illegal obstruction of the county’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center, if Yavorcik was elected. He lost that election by 38 percentage points.
The investigation centered around illegal efforts to impede the move of the county Department of Job and Family Services from a property on Youngstown’s East Side, owned by a Cafaro Co. subsidiary, to Oakhill.
The investigation was closed Nov. 15, 2016, with none of the Cafaros indicted.
Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally, in his previous capacity as a county commissioner, and ex-county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino, both Democrats, took plea deals in the case Feb. 26, 2016, before their trials started. Each was sentenced to a year’s probation.
Doughten wrote in his court filing that prosecutors told Judge Burnside that McNally and Sciortino “deserved less time although their conduct was, for the lack of a better term, ‘worse.’ This was because they agreed to [testify] against Yavorcik.”
Prosecutors didn’t give recommendations to Judge Burnside on the sentences of McNally and Sciortino. Sciortino wasn’t called as a witness.
“There is something wrong with allowing the greater offender to ultimately be sentenced to a lesser sentence than a relatively minor participating co-defendant who chooses to” go to trial.
Yavorcik’s attorney is also appealing his client’s conviction.