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Ohio Mayor Cops Guilty Plea to Stay in Office

CLEVELAND (CN) - The Democratic mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, returned to City Hall this week after reaching a plea deal on corruption charges that lets him stay in office.

Mayor John McNally copped the plea Friday at what would have been his last hearing ahead of trial on 73 counts filed against him and two others.

In addition to two charges of falsification, McNally pleaded guilty to one count of attempted unlawful use of a telecommunications device, and one count of attempted unlawful influence of a public official.

All four counts are misdemeanors, allowing McNally to remain in office and seek re-election.

Ohio's attorney general and the Cuyahoga County prosecutor brought the 2014 indictment just five months after Youngstown voters elected McNally mayor. A bill of particulars the state filed against McNally stands at 145 pages.

They said McNally had schemed as a Mahoning County commissioner from 2005 to 2014 to protect the space being leased by the Mahoning County Department of Job and Family Services, in a building owned by the Cafaro Co., a Youngstown-based retail developer.

In addition to attorney Martin Yavorcik, prosecutors labeled Michael Sciortino, who was the Mahoning auditor at the time, a co-conspirator.

The indictment alleged that Ulmer & Berne, a Cleveland law firm that represented the Cafaro Co., received a fax from McNally in 2006 of the county's confidential offer to purchase the building that would eventually become the new site of the county office.

Prosecutors said Sciortino tampered with records to artificially inflate the proposed cost of relocating the county office out of the Cafaro-owned property.

McNally and Sciortino both accepted legal services from Cafaro and its legal counsel, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors also accused Yavorcik of accepting campaign contributions from McNally and the Cafaro Co. during an unsuccessful bid for the office of Mahoning County prosecutor. They said Yavorcik took the money in exchange for his promise to interfere with any investigations into their conduct if elected county prosecutor.

The 2014 charges against McNally, Sciortino and Yavorcik included multiple felonies such as engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy, bribery, tampering with records, perjury, money laundering, telecommunications fraud and theft in office.

Mahoning County actually indicted McNally on similar charges in 2010, but that case was later dismissed without prejudice.

Sciortino joined McNally in tendering the guilty plea Friday, copping to one count each of falsification and receiving improper compensation, both misdemeanors, and one count of unlawful interest in a public contract, a felony of the fourth degree.

Sciortino also agreed to plead guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor in a separate Mahoning County indictment as part of Friday's plea deal.

In that case, which is still pending, Sciortino is accused of using computers in the Mahoning County Auditor's Office for his political campaigns and personal businesses.

Having lost re-election in 2014, the felony convictions will bar Sciortino from seeking elected office in the future.

Dan Tierney with the Ohio Attorney General's Office said McNally has agreed to pay the maximum fine of $3,500.

Both McNally and Sciortino have also agreed to cooperate with corruption investigations in the Youngstown/Mahoning Valley area, including the still pending Yavorcik case.

Other ongoing corruption cases in the Mahoning Valley include an investigation into the former mayor of Niles, a city located about 10 miles northwest of Youngstown. The Youngstown Vindicator has reported that former mayor Ralph Infante stands accused of waiving building-permit and -inspection fees for the Cafaro Co.'s corporate headquarters, without the city council's approval.

When asked if any of the ongoing investigations that McNally and Sciortino agreed to participate in were at all related to the Cafaro Company, Tierney declined to comment specifically about Cafaro, explaining that the investigations simply dealt with corruption in Mahoning Valley.

McNally and Sciortino are scheduled to be sentenced on March 28. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors have agreed not to make any recommendations about sentencing.

Yavorcik is expected to represent himself when his trial kicks off on March 14.

Ohio's presidential primaries are on March 16.

Since returning to City Hall this week, all of McNally's Twitter posts have focused on the national election.

"Refusing to consider a # SCOTUS nominee before one is even announced is irresponsible. # DoYourJob," reads the latest post, a retweet from the account of President Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, McNally retweeted several observations about the endorsement Republican front-runner Donald Trump has received from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

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