CLEVELAND, Ohio (WKBN) – The Oakhill corruption trial that was scheduled to officially start Monday in a Cuyahoga County courtroom was cut short Friday during a pretrial hearing in which the defendants agreed to a plea deal.
Youngstown Mayor and former Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally, attorney Martin Yavorcik and former Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino were indicted in 2014 on charges that include bribery, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and tampering with evidence. The charges relate to their alleged attempt to keep Mahoning County from buying the old Southside Hospital, now the Oakhill Renaissance Place, for use as a government office building.
Under the agreement, McNally and Sciortino were permitted to enter pleas to lesser charges.
McNally pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts: two counts of falsification, each a misdemeanor of the first degree; one count of attempted unlawful use of a telecommunications device, a misdemeanor of the first degree and one count of attempted unlawful influence of a public official, a misdemeanor of the second degree.
His original charges included perjury, telecommunications fraud and public official using unlawful influence.
Sciortino pleaded guilty to two felony counts and three misdemeanors: one count of unlawful interest in a public contract, a felony of the fourth degree; one count of falsification, a misdemeanor of the first degree; and one count of receiving or soliciting improper compensation, a misdemeanor of the first degree. He was accused of misusing his county-owned computers for political reasons.
His charges were amended from record tampering, perjury and soliciting improper compensation charges.
Since Sciortino pleaded guilty to two felonies, he will never be able to hold public office. Sources said it is unlikely that Sciortino or McNally will serve any jail time.
Under the conditions of the plea agreement, both men must testify before the court about their actions that led to the indictment and provide a truthful statement to Ohio law enforcement. If government does not feel either or both has provided what is expected of them, prosecutors are free to ask judge to “vacate,” or throw out their pleas.
As part of the plea deal, McNally and Sciortino would have to pay thousands of dollars in fines.
In exchange, the government agrees to make no recommendations on sentences and will not have government pensions forfeited or adjusted. The government also agrees to cease any other pending investigations against Sciortino or anyone else involved with his second, separate indictment in which Sciortino was charged with unauthorized use of a computer.
Sentencing is set for March 28.
Yavorcik, who is defending himself in the case, was not part of the original plea agreement. While the case against him will not begin Monday as originally scheduled, he will be back in court March 14.
The original indictment included 78 charges, but 28 of those were dropped to streamline the case. Prosecutors submitted more than 700 hours of phone conversations during the discovery process and named Valley business, The Cafaro Company, in their findings.
The list of evidence also named Ulmer and Berne as the offices where John McNally is accused of faxing the county’s confidential offer to buy what is now Oakhill Renaissance Place. The law firm worked for the Cafaro Company and was helping the developer to stop county offices from being moved from a Cafaro-owned building in Youngstown.
McNally insists that purchasing Oakhill was a bad move.
“I still stand by the position,” he said. “There was really no thought going into that, no due diligence. We sucked up a lot of costs I don’t really believe we needed to.”
Because McNally’s charges are misdemeanors, he can remain in office and even run for re-election. McNally said he plans to, despite a call from Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman Dave Betras for his resignation.
“I don’t know if ‘deal-breaker’ was the right word, but we were adamant that I was not going to be resigning from office,” McNally said.