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Why is Gains taking a pass?

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Published January 2, 2011

Untitled document

It’s no secret — at least not to political insiders — that Youngstown city Prosecutor Jay Macejko wants to challenge Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains in the 2012 Democratic primary. And, it’s also no secret that county Democratic Party Chairman David Betras wants to prevent what would certainly be a bloody political clash.

But Sunday’s front page story in The Vindicator about the nine capital cases that are on the docket this year had to have made Macejko smile and Betras squirm. Why? Because as the story revealed, Mahoning County’s top lawyer, Gains, will not be the lead in any of the high-profile cases. Dawn Cantalamessa, chief trial lawyer in the criminal division, will be in charge.

That will be Gains’ Archilles’ heel in 2012, because his seeming unwillingness to take on cases of such great importance to the community will be compared with Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins’ eagerness to match his legal skills against those of hot-shot defense lawyers.

Why wouldn’t Gains, who is in his third four-year term, not want to be in forefront of trying to put away the man accused of killing 80-year-old Angeline Fimognari, who was shot at point-blank range as she sat in her car in the a parking lot of St. Dominic Church? Fimognari attended daily mass at St. Dominic. Or, why wouldn’t he want to go after the accused killers of 79-year-old Thomas Repchic? Also a member of St. Dominic Church, Repchic is said to have been the victim of mistaken identity.

While all five capital cases involving nine defendants will garner a lot of media attention, the murders of Fimognari and Repchic have triggered an angry response from law-abiding citizens. They are demanding justice.

Youngstown city Prosecutor Macejko is certain to make Gains’ passing up these cases an issue in 2012 should he decide to make a bid for the Democratic primary. Talk about giving a prospective challenger an issue.

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