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Special investigators determined on Tuesday that Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino should have been arrested for drunk driving in May, but his sheriff’s officer friend improperly decided instead to give Scriortino a ride home.
Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene said Tuesday the Summit County Sheriff investigators’ independent report about the deputies’ stop at 11:25 p.m. May 26 on U.S. Route 224 near Raccoon Road showed two deputies improperly intervened and likely spared Sciortino from a drunk driving charge.
Since no breath test was given at the time and Lt. T.J. Assion drove Sciortino home, charging him only with weaving across marked lanes while driving, Greene said he will likely never be charged. Sciortino paid the $130 fine for the marked lanes violation.
Dash-cam video obtained by WKBN shows Assion leading Sciortino, who at one point was handcuffed, to his cruiser to give the auditor a ride home. Greene said Sciortino failed field sobriety tests and was under arrest for drunk driving before another deputy intervened.
The report says the video, along with how Sciortino acted when someone saw him sleeping in his car at a nearby Wendy’s parking lot and based on how he acted during field sobriety tests, led investigators to believe he was driving drunk.
The report says when Sgt. James Touville asked Sciortino if he was drinking, he first shrugged his shoulders, then said he had one or two drinks.
“Certainly I can say there was a degree of impairment, but based on the inappropriate intervention of our officers we’ll never know,” Greene said.
Greene said the FBI interviewed Sciortino, but he would not reveal why.
Three sheriff’s officers were disciplined, including Assion, the sheriff’s union leader, who Greene said was friends with Sciortino. Assion, Greene said, un-arrested Sciortino on a drunk driving charge and gave him a ride home.
Assion was demoted to the sergeant rank that will coincide with a yearly $19,000 pay cut. Greene said he was “very troubled” Assion would stop an arrest. He also noted Assion is a highly-regarded officer.
“Commander Assion is a heavy lifter, a hard worker and is very intelligent,” Greene said. “He’s very valuable to this agency. Commander Assion let this agency down more than he’ll ever know. It’s a tough decision to make.”
Assion declined comment when reached on Tuesday.
Touville, who pulled Sciortino over, has a hearing set to determine what discipline he will face.
Assion and Touville both decided Sciortino’s impairment was “medically related” though investigators noted no one, including Sciortino, asked for medical assistance, the report says.
The shift commander that night, Maj. Jeff Allen, was suspended for 10 days because he was instructed to alert Greene of any “high-profile situation” and failed to do so that night, Greene said. Allen was told about the stop and eventually called Assion and alerted him that Sciortino was pulled over, Greene said.
Greene said Assion then called Touville and said he was on his way to the traffic stop. Once there, Assion and Touville decided to “un-arrest” Scriortino and let Assion drive him home.
“I think situations like this brings down the public’s trust,” Greene said. “It’s a black eye.”