New judge will preside over Struthers Municipal Court


By GRAIG GRAZIOSI

ggraziosi@vindy.com

STRUTHERS

Leone press release

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A pair of ex-girlfriends and former campaign workers for the Dominic Leone for Struthers Municipal Court Judge claim Leone receieved illegal campaign contributions and illegally smoked marijuana. Leone responded to the claims point-by-point in a statement, asserting the allegations are lies.

Mayer-Hoaglin/Yacko affidavits

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A pair of ex-girlfriends and former campaign workers for the Dominic Leone for Struthers Municipal Court Judge claim Leone receieved illegal campaign contributions and illegally smoked marijuana. Leone responded to the claims point-by-point in a statement, asserting the allegations are lies.

For the first time in more than two decades, a new judge will preside over Struthers Municipal Court.

Dominic Leone III, the city’s current law director, will run for the soon-to-be empty seat of former Struthers Municipal Judge James Lanzo as a Democrat. Damian DeGenova, a Republican, is challenging him for the position.

The Struthers court serves the city of Struthers as well as Lowellville, Poland village, Poland Township, New Middletown and Springfield Township.

Each candidate has years of legal experience and both have stated a desire to grow and improve on the successful court presided over by the outgoing Judge Lanzo.

DeGenova has been practicing law since 1994 and is a former Mahoning County assistant prosecutor. DeGenova is currently serving as the Struthers court’s Small Claims Magistrate and is in private practice with his law firm DeGenova and Yarwood.

Leone has served as the Struthers law director for the past six years and is the city’s legal counsel. Leone also has been in private practice for the last 10 years.

Despite their similar aspirations, the campaign has been aggressive.

Allegations have been levied recently against Leone by a pair of ex-girlfriends who gave sworn statements to the Mahoning County Board of Elections that the judicial candidate took improper campaign contributions and smoked marijuana.

Document: Mayer-Hoaglin/Yacko affidavits

Document: Leone press release

Courtney Mayer-Hoaglin — who served as treasurer of Leone’s campaign from January to March 2017 — accused Leone of asking her for a campaign contribution of $1,500 in $600 increments to avoid campaign donation limits. She said she gave him $600 as a loan, not a contribution, which Leone disputes. Leone and Mayer-Hoaglin were dating from August 2016 to March 2017.

The second affidavit, filed by Sarah Yacko — who also served on Leone’s campaign as an aide from March until May 2017 — accuses Leone of taking a number of campaign contributions in excess of the state-mandated $600 maximum. In one instance, Yacko claims Leone admitted he was given an envelope with $5,000 cash.

Leone responded to the accusations in a statement, refuting the allegations and claiming the women were encouraged to submit the affidavits by supporters of DeGenova.

“These actions and other accusations levied against me by my opponent’s supporters are not unexpected. But they will not distract me from my campaign or motivate me to do anything other than work even harder — to knock on more doors, shake more hands and attend more events between now and Nov. 7,” he said in the statement.

Regarding their plans for the court should they win, both men have expressed a desire to improve the efficiency of the court to make the experience better for the public.

Leone wants to begin video arraignments, which he hopes will free more police officers for use in street patrols. He also plans on having night court to help ensure those attending court have plenty of opportunities for attending.

DeGenova wants to move the court to a paperless filing system, which he argues would be more efficient for all involved and produce less waste, and wants to implement a veterans court, which he believes will ensure veterans are not unfairly treated in the courts.

Concerning the drug epidemic, DeGenova is interested in attempting to make a deal with the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to send drug offenders through Judge John Durkin’s drug court.

DeGenova is skeptical of starting a drug court in Struthers due to the associated costs.

Leone, however, has said a priority of his would be to establish specialty dockets, including a drug court and a veterans court, within the Struthers court system. Leone said he had spent time observing Girard Judge Jeffery Adler’s drug court program, and believes it would be a benefit to Struthers to implement a similar court in the city.

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