YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – After months of on-again, off-again plea bargains, the prosecutor handling the Cliff Panezich phony sports memorabilia case decided he’d had enough.
Before storming out of the courtroom Tuesday morning, Assistant Prosecutor Marty Desmond gave the defense a piece of his mind.
“I write out a plea you agreed to yesterday. I write up the amendment, all the paperwork, you had it. You come in this morning, say, ‘No, it’s not good enough.’ Screw you, then!”
Meanwhile, Panezich and his lawyer, Percy Squire, talked amongst themselves.
Panezich could be heard saying he wanted his mother, Rose, released from jail on a parole violation. In exchange, he said he would take the deal. Twenty minutes later, he was standing in front of the judge.
Panezich had been accused of leading a ring that made millions by selling phony sports memorabilia online. Investigators confiscated jerseys, helmets, photos and other items during a raid of Panezich’s home near Las Vegas.
Canfield detectives and the FBI worked the case together, and half a dozen others have already pleaded guilty, including Rose Panezich.
Another suspect, CJ McCormick, appeared in court locally Tuesday morning after being arrested in Nevada.
“He collected money, he marketed things. Toward the end when Cliff moved to Nevada, CJ actually began signing his own memorabilia,” Desmond said.
“We started this, gosh, close to four years ago. The officers, the agencies on the case, you know, they’ve been working almost nonstop from that time on this case,” Desmond said. “So I know they’re happy with the outcome. We’re happy with the outcome.”
Desmond says it took a lot of negotiating with out-of-town lawyers and the defendant to get to this point.
“It was difficult because there was a lot of phone calls. There were a lot of emails, as opposed to parties sitting down at the table like we did yesterday, saying, ‘This is where we’re at…We’re not willing to move on this,’ and you either take it or leave it.”
For now, Panezich remains jailed on a $100,000 bond and is due back in court for sentencing in about six weeks.