Yavorcik asks Ohio Supreme Court to reject prosecutors’ appeal
By David Skolnick
The attorney for Martin Yavorcik is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to reject an appeal by prosecutors, who want a reversal of a lower court’s decision to vacate Yavorcik’s eight felony convictions in the Oak- hill Renaissance Place corruption case.
The 8th District Court of Appeals vacated the convictions on May 10 writing in a 3-0 decision that Cuyahoga County was the wrong place to conduct Yavorcik’s trial.
While Yavorcik didn’t commit crimes in Cuyahoga County, he was part of a conspiracy that included illegal acts there, prosecutors from Cuyahoga County and the Ohio attorney general say.
But in a response, David Doughten, Yavorcik’s attorney, wrote: “The actions here are but a not-so-thinly veiled cover for the real purpose of the venue change, forum shopping. The prosecution relied upon an unfair and unsubstantiated allegation that it could not receive a fair trial in Mahoning County. This was acknowledged at the oral argument of this case in the 8th District Court of Appeals. While not conceding the sufficiency of the venue connection to Cuyahoga County, a motivating factor of the state in seeking a venue change was unquestionably the uneasiness of the prosecutor here to try the case in the county where the alleged corruption occurred.”
He added: “This is an untenable and unsupportable basis to support a venue challenge. If the prosecution believed a particular judge in Mahoning County had a conflict in presiding over the case, it could challenge that particular judge, not the entire bench.”
Prosecutors say Yavorcik’s co-conspirators include ex-Mahoning County Commissioner John A. McNally and ex-county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino, both Democrats who took plea deals in the Oakhill case. They, along with ex-county Treasurer John Reardon, also a Democrat, received about $700,000 in free legal assistance from Ulmer & Berne, a Cleveland law firm, paid by Anthony Cafaro Sr., the former head of the Cafaro Co.
Doughten wrote that the appellate judges concluded “there was no evidence to support that any part of the conspiracy occurred in Cuyahoga County. Although the state of Ohio argued that a major law firm in Cleveland, Ohio, had committed a crime in furtherance of that conspiracy, not a single partner or associate of the law firm nor the law firm itself was actually charged with a criminal offense.”
He also wrote: “Merely seeking legal advice on pending charges from counsel from another county should not and cannot allow jurisdiction to transfer to the locale of the office of legal counsel.”
Doughten wrote the state should be barred from a retrial because it “would infringe upon a defendant’s right to a speedy trial.”
In 2006, Cafaro wanted to stop 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 on the city’s South Side. Also, McNally, Sciortino and Reardon opposed the move.
McNally was convicted in 2016 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court of four misdemeanors related to his faxing the county’s confidential offer to buy Oak-hill in 2006 to attorneys at Ulmer & Berne and for making false statements during a sworn deposition. Sciortino was convicted in 2016 in Cuyahoga County of one felony and two misdemeanors connected to his receiving free legal services from Ulmer & Berne, paid by Cafaro, also in 2006, and for making false statements during a sworn deposition.
Prosecutors say Yavorcik joined the conspiracy in 2008 when he ran for prosecutor as an independent candidate. He lost that election to incumbent Democrat Paul J. Gains.
A Cuyahoga County jury found Yavorcik guilty March 25, 2016, 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.
He was sentenced by Judge Janet R. Burnside on April 22, 2016, to five years’ probation, including the first year on house arrest, which he served. But the Cleveland-based 8th District Court of Appeals on May 10 vacated the eight felonies over improper venue.