Thursday, August 30, 2018
By David Skolnick
The Ohio Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal from prosecutors seeking to reverse a decision to vacate the eight convictions of Martin Yavorcik in the Oakhill Renaissance Place corruption case.
In a 4-2 ruling announced Wednesday, the court declined to take up the appeal. The court didn’t provide a reason for not accepting the appeal.
The Cleveland-based 8th District Court of Appeals vacated the convictions May 10, writing in a 3-0 decision that Cuyahoga County was the wrong place to conduct Yavorcik’s trial because he didn’t commit any crimes there. Prosecutors from Cuyahoga County and the Ohio attorney general said he was part of a conspiracy that included illegal acts in that county.
“I am not surprised that the Supreme Court refused to review this case,” said David Doughten, Yavorcik’s attorney. “Clearly the court saw no need [to] readdress an issue which was based on solid precedent that had been firmly established for years. Here, the prosecution was attempting to stretch the interpretation of venue under the law. If the prosecution’s position had been accepted, it would have allowed a prosecutor to forum shop, that is, go to another county if they thought the judges or jury of a different county would be more sympathetic to its position.”
He added: “The law requires that the citizens of the county in which the alleged violation occurred be permitted to sit in judgment in the jury. It is the right of the defendant to be judged by citizens [of] his community. Courts allow changes in venue only if it can be shown, after attempting to sit a jury, that the parties could not receive a fair review. That did not happen here as the prosecutor bypassed the procedure.”
Doughten said he was “relieved” for Yavorcik, who he called “a naive dupe used by others he mistakenly trusted. A dismissal of this case is absolute justice as he had no intent to violate any law.”
Dan Tierney, an attorney general spokesman, said: “We’re going to review the decision to determine if any further action can be taken.”
Asked if they would file charges against Yavorcik in Mahoning County, Tierney said: “That is something that would be under review. I can’t comment at this time.”
But Doughten said prosecutors can’t file in Mahoning County.
“Dismissal for venue is a sufficiency reversal, as venue is an element of the offense under Ohio law,” he said. “Sufficiency reversals are final.”
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 to five years’ probation, including the first year on house arrest, which he served.
He also had his law license suspended and has filed a request with the Ohio Supreme Court to get it reinstated.
Prosecutors said Yavorcik joined the Oakhill conspiracy in 2008 when he ran for prosecutor as an independent candidate with the expectation that if he won he would kill the criminal investigation into blocking Mahoning County’s purchase of a former hospital. Yavorcik lost that election to incumbent Democrat Paul J. Gains.
In 2006, Anthony Cafaro Sr., then-president of his family-owned Cafaro Co., wanted to stop the move of Mahoning County’s Department of Job and Family Services from a Cafaro 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. Then-county Commissioner John A. McNally, then-county Auditor Michael Sciortino and then-county Treasurer John Reardon, all Democrats, 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 Oakhill in 2006 to attorneys at Ulmer & Berne, a Cleveland law firm, 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.
McNally, Sciortino and Reardon received about $700,000 in free legal assistance from Ulmer & Berne, paid by Cafaro.
Reardon, Cafaro and Ulmer & Berne were not charged.