Lawyers seek review of Oakhill corruption grand jury proceedings - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Lawyers seek review of Oakhill corruption grand jury proceedings

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CLEVELAND, Ohio - Two public officials accused of trying to conceal an alleged conspiracy to keep Mahoning County Commissioners from moving some county offices into the Oakhill Renaissance Place, are asking a judge to shed more light on the process used to gain the indictments against them.

Attorneys for Youngstown Mayor John McNally and Mahoning County Auditor Mike Sciortino have filed a motion in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, asking Judge Janet Burnside to order that the minutes of the Grand Jury that indicted them be transcribed, and submitted to the court for a private review.

Proceedings of a Grand Jury are generally considered to be secret. But the joint motion filed by defense attorneys Lynn Maro and John Juhasz tell the judge that there is a need to ascertain whether the indictment was truly the product of the Grand Jury, and not what Maro and Juhasz call “an administrative convenience for the prosecutor.”

The motion states, that the court must insure that the right guaranteed by the Ohio Constitution to be tried for felonies only upon indictment by a grand jury has been secured in this case.

McNally, Sciortino and attorney Martin Yavorcik face 83 charges alleging that they took part in a criminal enterprise with an unnamed local businessman in connection with the investigation into the purchase of the Oakhill building.

The motion filed on Thursday, opposes a move by the prosecutor to amend the indictment to change the name of the law firm with whom the two allegedly conspired.

The lawyers point out that if the indictment says defendants consorted with one law firm, and the prosecutor now says it was actually a different law firm, the case either needs to be re-presented to the Grand Jury, or the prosecutor must be bound by the indictment as it was returned.

The motion says that a review of the Grand Jury proceedings will help clear up any possible discrepancies. The defense attorneys suggest that they be allowed to discuss the transcripts of the proceedings with their clients.

The defense motion is somewhat reminiscent of one filed in 2011 by retired mall developer, Anthony Cafaro, Sr., his sister Flora Cafaro when they were indicted along with McNally and Sciortino for allegedly trying to influence public officials to block the move of Jobs and Family Services from a Cafaro owned property to the Oakhill Renaissance building.

In that 106 page motion, the Cafaros sought dismissal of the indictment, alleging misconduct on the part of the prosecutor by manipulating the grand jury. That case was eventually dismissed because prosecutors say they could not obtain evidence held by the FBI.

Although the latest motion does not allege misconduct on the part of the prosecutor, it focuses on possible frailties of the grand jury process.  The defense lawyers say that many modern grand juries indict a case the way the prosecutor wants a case to be indicted and asks to have it indicted. They point out that, “Citizen grand jurors can easily understand murder, rape and assault, but they become entangled in the quagmire of criminal conspiracies and patterns of corrupt activity.”

The next hearing in the latest case is scheduled for August.  Meanwhile, a panel selected by the Ohio Supreme Court is deciding whether or not Michael Sciortino can continue performing his duties as Mahoning County Auditor.


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