Former Mahoning County assistant prosecutor details allegations - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Former Mahoning County assistant prosecutor details allegations of misconduct

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

The former Mahoning County Assistant Prosecutor is asking a court to unseal grand jury testimony, in order to prove complaints against his former boss. 

In a petition filed with the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, former prosecutor Marty Desmond is asking the court to release transcripts from five grand jury proceedings, in order to prove misconduct by the prosecutor's office. 

In a memorandum, Desmond claims that releasing the grand jury transcripts will allow him to appeal a decision made by the State Personnel Board of Review. 

According to the suit, the State Board dismissed Desmond's lawsuit regarding claims of "wrongful termination". 

Desmond alleges that he was fired after bringing to light issues with the way the prosecutor's office was handling certain indictments. 

In the latest filing, Desmond says that on several accounts, which are detailed out, the prosecutors compelled grand juries to indict witnesses in cases on criminal charges, even though there was no evidence to support the indictment. 

In one case, Desmond claims the prosecutor's office charged two witnesses with murder in 2008. Desmond alleges that a short while later prosecuting attorneys made a motion to dismiss the murder charges against two of the defendants, saying that the charges were intended to "apply pressure" in order to get them to testify. 

In a similar instance, the former prosecutor says that in 2011 a murder witness invoked his constitutional right to remain silent. Shortly after, Desmond says that Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa sought a superseding indictment, charging the man with murder,- despite a lack of new evidence. 

Following the murder indictment, the witness relented and testified, according to the motion. 

According to Desmond, that qualifies as "prosecutorial vindictiveness". 

Desmond's suit lays out additional instances which, he says, prove misconduct on the part of Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains, and the office of the Prosecutor as a whole. 

For instance, Desmond lays out what he believes was the reason for his termination- a case involving a federal lawsuit filed by a witness, Kalilo Robinson. 

Robinson was originally going to testify in a murder case.  When he decided not to -- he invoked his fifth amendment right.  At that point, Assistant Prosecutor Cantalamessa obtained an indictment against the defendant for obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence.

Ultimately the indictment was dismissed, but then Cantalamessa told the court that Kalilo Robinson was heard during a phone conversation at the jail saying he was headed to Tennessee and would not appear as required to testify in the murder case.  He was then held without bond by the court.

Desmond claims that he reported concerns to the Chief of the Appellate Division, but says "if anyone conducted an investigation, however, they did not contact Desmond. No one followed up with him."

The motion goes on to allege that Desmond shared his concerns with Prosecutor Gains, and was then placed on administrative leave. 

Following a hearing over the allegations, Desmond was terminated. 

During a press conference in April announcing the termination, Gains accused Desmond of knowing that defense attorney James Wise was going to file a civil rights lawsuit against the Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office and his colleagues and failing to tell his supervisors about it. 

"As far as I'm concerned it resulted in the filing of a civil rights action against me Shawn Burns - his colleague, Attorney Dawn Cantalamessa -- his other colleague, and resulted in the filing of claims against Attorney Cantalamessa not only officially, but in her personal capacity," Gains previously said.

Since that time, Desmond filed a federal lawsuit claiming that his termination from the office was retaliatory and that he should be reappointed. 

According to the lawsuit, Gains then filed an affidavit and the "whistleblower" lawsuit was dismissed. Desmond argues that he was given no hearing or chance to "challenge Gain's credibility". 

Desmond argues that by releasing the grand jury transcripts form several cases, he would be able to challenge the State Personnel Review Board's decision to dismiss his "whistleblower complaint". 

Furthermore, Desmond says that the transcripts need to be released because there is a "broader public interest in ensuring accountability with the prosecutor's office."

Desmond says that without the misconduct being brought to light it will "be permitted to go unabated to the public's detriment." 

21 News reached out to Prosecutor Paul Gains Thursday morning who said that Desmond's allegations are "without merit". 

Gains said that the complaints laid out by Desmond were already turned down by the State Personnel Board of Review. 

In the July ruling by the Administrative Law Judge, a judge said that Desmond's complaint did not qualify as a "whistleblower" report, nor was it filed "in good faith". 

The same ruling said that Desmond knew of the alleged misconduct in the Robison case and yet failed to write a formal report for nearly a year. 

Gains said his office is aware of the memorandum requesting the transcripts and is "reviewing it and will respond accordingly."

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