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Corruption trials put on pause because of pandemic

YOUNGSTOWN — Because of the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a Mahoning County judge indefinitely postponed the corruption trials for ex-Youngstown finance director David Bozanich and downtown developer Dominic Marchionda and his 10 affiliated companies.

The defendants, their attorneys and prosecutors met for an hour behind closed doors Wednesday with common pleas court Judge Maureen Sweeney during a pretrial hearing that was scheduled to be the last before trials were to start Monday.

Sweeney on April 2 approved requests from the defendants for Bozanich to have a separate trial from Marchionda and the latter’s companies.

She then canceled a May 5 hearing to determine the dates for the trials, which meant neither case would begin on the scheduled June 1 date.

On Wednesday, Sweeney didn’t set dates for either trial nor did she schedule the next pretrial hearing, attorneys from both sides said.

“No date set, nothing,” said Dan Kasaris, senior assistant Ohio attorney general and the lead prosecutor. “She talked about COVID.”

Stephanie Anderson, an assistant state attorney general, said, “We don’t want to start something” during the pandemic.

Ralph E. Cascarilla, Bozanich’s attorney, said, “We’re trying to find a trial date. (We talked Tuesday about) just logistics. It’s up in the air, as you can imagine. The lawyers are trying to find dates for the trial.”

The defendants and former Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone were indicted Aug. 30, 2018, on 101 counts, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, money laundering, tampering with records, aggravated theft and receiving stolen property.

Sammarone was facing 14 counts but took a plea agreement March 16 to two felony counts of tampering with records. He received five years of probation and 30 days of community service.

Bozanich is accused of illegally giving assistance to people, including Marchionda through an associate, who sought public funding for economic-development purposes in exchange for money, golf fees, meals and trips exceeding $125,000.

Marchionda is accused of misspending at least $600,000 in city funds on personal items in addition to misusing money obtained from the city, state and federal governments for the Flats at Wick student-housing complex as well as the Erie Terminal Place and Wick Tower downtown-housing projects.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty.

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