Panezich appeals denial of post-conviction relief


By Justin Wier

jwier@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A man who led what prosecutors called the largest sports-memorabilia fraud case in the country will again appeal the conviction that followed his guilty plea.

The notice of appeal, filed this week with the Mahoning County clerk of courts, concerns rulings issued this month by Judge Maureen A. Sweeney, of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, that Clifton J. Panezich, 32, of Henderson, Nev., did not qualify for post-conviction relief.

She wrote that Panezich never denied culpability for his actions, and that he failed to provide evidence that the court violated his constitutional rights.

That followed a June ruling by the 7th District Court of Appeals that Panezich’s guilty plea was not coerced and did not result from prosecutorial misconduct.

Panezich defrauded 25,000 customers of more than $2 million through the online sales of forged autographs, prosecutors said.

He pleaded guilty to several charges related to the criminal activity in 2016. Judge Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court sentenced Panezich to six years in prison last year.

The case received national attention, which included a feature story in Sports Illustrated.

Panezich filed an appeal that claimed the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s office coerced his plea through excessive bail and by holding his mother in jail on a probation violation until he pleaded guilty.

The 7th District Court of Appeals found Panezich’s claims to be without merit.

The court cited previous appellate court rulings that determined a plea entered in exchange for the dismissal of charges against family members are not considered coerced.

“The record does not reflect there were any strong-arm measures used to coerce Appellant into pleading guilty,” Judge Carol Ann Robb wrote.

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