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Judge denies Nohra’s bid to delay trial

WARREN — The attorney for Joseph S. Nohra Jr., former Liberty schools superintendent, has asked for a judge to delay a trial against his client — who is charged with unlawfully bugging the school district office in 2018 — citing some 90,000 pages of evidence he has to wade through.

Attorney David Betras made the request to Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Ronald J. Rice, who instead held firm during a hearing last week, keeping the scheduled Jan. 3, 2022, trial date.

“You can have somebody in your office help you get through that material. I’m sure not all of it is relevant to this case,” Rice told Betras.

Nohra, 50, of Topper Hill Drive, Hubbard, was indicted in a special report of the Trumbull County grand jury in May on six counts of interception of wire, oral or electronic communications and five counts of interfering with civil rights.

Betras had issued a statement after the indictment stating that his client “emphatically and categorically” denies the charges.

According to the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office, the charges deal with Nohra, when he was superintendent, setting up a hidden surveillance camera and audio above an employee’s desk in the district office. The allegations came from an investigation initiated by the state auditor’s office that was executed through a search warrant by local authorities at the Liberty schools on March 5, 2019.

Betras, however, explained that Nohra was presented with credible evidence that a school employee may have been involved in theft in office. Nohra, with the knowledge and approval of the school board and its legal counsel, initiated his own investigation that resulted in that employee’s resignation, Betras said.

The alleged criminal offenses against Nohra occurred over a two-week period in April 2018, the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s office stated. Assistant Prosecutor Charles Morrow said he would not comment further on the case facts.

Nohra resigned as Liberty superintendent in June 2020.

The charges against Nohra are fourth-degree felonies, which each carry a potential 18-month prison sentence, and the five other counts are first-degree misdemeanors, each with a potential six-month jail term.

Rice has given the lawyers in the case until the end of the month to submit motions, with the final pretrial hearing set for Dec. 9, court records show.

Meanwhile, a civil lawsuit also is proceeding against Nohra in Rice’s court. In that complaint, filed in July, seven people claim their privacy was affected by secret recordings allegedly ordered by the former superintendent.

Named as plaintiffs in the civil action are former or current school district employees Christine Gallaugher of Hubbard, Rick Svetlak of Poland, Dale Fuller of Girard, Karen Copenhaver of Hubbard and Leslie Diana of Youngstown and two others, Gallaugher’s husband David and close friend Francine Delbene of McDonald. Named as co-defendant with Nohra is the Liberty Schools Board of Education.

The plantiffs, who claim invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress, together are seeking more than $595,000 in damages.

According to court records, no trial date has been set and lawyers on both sides are facing deadlines in filing motions

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