Prosecutors aren’t ready to let Yavorcik walk in Oakhill case

In an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, prosecutors contend Martin Yavorcik didn’t need to commit a crime in Cuyahoga County to be tried there.

“Like the other procedural rights afforded an accused” such “as a public trial, compulsory process, confrontation, the right against self-incrimination, and the right against double jeopardy, venue is not a material element of a crime,” reads the appeal from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The motion was filed Monday with the Ohio Supreme Court. It argues that the Cleveland-based 8th District Court of Appeals was incorrect last month when it vacated Yavorcik’s eight felony convictions in his 2016 Oakhill Renaissance Place corruption case.

“The 8th District refused to acknowledge evidence that the corrupt enterprise in this case did business in Cuyahoga County when a private citizen [Anthony Cafaro Sr., the former Cafaro Co. president] bankrolled highly valuable legal services from Cuyahoga County, which were used to enable Mahoning County public officials to do his bidding,” the motion reads. “In a situation like this, federal courts and other Ohio appellate courts have adopted the rule that a pattern of corrupt activity case is properly venued wherever the unlawful enterprise conducted business.”

The motion added: “The 8th District Court of Appeals misstates the current state of law in Ohio with regard to proper venue for an enterprise that engages in a pattern of corrupt activity in finding that the defendant himself had to have a ‘significant nexus’ with Cuyahoga County, where the trial was held.”

Prosecutors acknowledge that Yavorcik, an attorney and failed 2008 independent candidate for Mahoning County prosecutor, didn’t commit crimes in Cuyahoga County. But they contend he was part of a conspiracy that included illegal acts in that county thus making it an appropriate venue for his trial.

The court filing states Yavorcik’s co-conspirators include ex-Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally, in his previous capacity as a Mahoning County commissioner, 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 Cafaro.

Prosecutors state Cafaro wanted to stop the 2006 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.

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 Oakhill 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.

Reardon, Cafaro, and Ulmer & Berne weren’t charged with crimes in Cuyahoga County in the Oakhill case.

Prosecutors have said Yavorcik joined the conspiracy in 2008 when he ran for prosecutor.

A jury convicted Yavorcik of illegally taking about $140,000 in bribes from Cafaro and two of his siblings to kill the Oak-hill case if he were elected. 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.

But during a March 28, 2017, hearing, 8th District Court of Appeals judges questioned why the case wasn’t heard in Mahoning County rather than Cuyahoga.

“Why do you have to take Cuyahoga County resources when you had perfectly good ones in Mahoning County?”

Matthew E. Meyer, Cuyahoga County assistant prosecutor, said: “Mahoning County [has a] rich history of corruption, and people in Mahoning County sell their offices. Corruption is essentially a minor offense.”

It took more than a year for the court of appeals to make a decision, but they ruled last month that Cuyahoga County wasn’t the appropriate venue for Yavorcik’s case.

It is now up to the state Supreme Court to determine if it will hear the prosecutors’ appeal.

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