Civil Rights & Constitutional Law
Former Mahoning County prosecutor reports misconduct; endures retaliation, including defamation
March 21, 2018
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Columbus, OH – Today, former Mahoning County Assistant Prosecutor Martin Desmond filed a motion for sanctions against defense counsel for the Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office in the State Personnel Board of Review (SPBR) alleging misconduct by counsel and the Prosecutor's Office on October 28 during the partial merit hearing on Desmond's long-pending whistleblower complaint. The motion alleges that defense counsel Todd Raskin made a false statement to the administrative law judge during the hearing—in apparent violation of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct.
During the hearing, Assistant Ohio Attorney General Daniel Kasaris, a witness called by Mahoning County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Gains, testified about Desmond's report of an alleged criminal conspiracy involving two local lawyers and two Mahoning County assistant prosecutors. When Kasaris mentioned the name of one of the assistant prosecutors, Raskin interrupted the testimony and prevented Kasaris from continuing. Raskin claimed to the administrative law judge that a federal court order supposedly prohibited Kasaris from disclosing the information about which Kasaris was about to testify.
Raskin refused to show Desmond a copy of the purported orders and claimed that he could only show them to the judge. Desmond argued in response that the information was admissible and that the purported orders, in which Desmond had no voice, had no bearing on the matter.
Raskin then told the administrative law judge, referring to Desmond's related Mahoning County civil case against the Prosecutor, "And let me just say, this is exactly the same argument they made to Judge Inderlied in the civil case and he didn’t accept it." When Desmond responded, "That is not accurate," Raskin doubled down, claiming, "It is." The motion states that Raskin's co-counsel Patricia Rubright and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gina DeGenova Zawrotuk nodded in assent at Raskin's claim, as did Prosecutor Paul Gains and Chief Assistant Prosecutor Lynette Stratford.
But Desmond shows in his motion to disqualify that Raskin and his compadres' factual and legal assertion to the judge was blatantly false. Desmond attaches to his motion and quotes from an official court transcript of proceedings from the related Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas case.
The Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas is where any rulings from the SPBR would be appealed, so its related rulings matter.
Contrary to Raskin's claim, during the course of Desmond's civil case against Gains and Mahoning County, the Prosecutor's Office during a March 19, 2019 hearing raised—and the judge there addressed—the exact same issue. Visiting Judge Inderlied, who reviewed the purported federal orders ruled against Mahoning County's attempts to keep the information hidden—and ruled in Desmond's favor. Judge Inderlied specifically found that Desmond's questions and answers on the same topic were "appropriate" and permissible.
Raskin, Rubright, DeGenova Zawrotuk, Gains, and Stratford were all present to hear Judge Inderlied's March 19, 2019 ruling against them, according to the motion to disqualify.
Desmond asserts in his motion that the Prosecutor's Office's counsel that this false statement of fact and law violates Rule 3.3 of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, warranting disqualification of counsel and an award of attorneys' fees and costs.
In both the SPBR proceeding and the civil case, Prosecutor Paul Gains has tried to block Desmond from gathering and presenting evidence of rampant Mahoning County prosecutorial misconduct.
Apparently relying on Raskin's false statements about Judge Inderlied's ruling, the SPBR administrative law judge stayed the hearing pending further briefing.
Desmond filed his original whistleblower complaint in the SPBR alleging that Gains terminated his employment because Desmond blew the whistle on prosecutorial misconduct by Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa. Desmond had alleged to Gains that Cantalamessa had obtained an indictment against an individual merely for invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination, and with no other evidence. Desmond also filed a parallel civil lawsuit in Mahoning County, alleging, among other things, that Gains defamed him.
Gains kept Cantalamessa employed despite her problematic record on complying with the Constitution. But she resigned in disgrace this year following the order of a judge in yet another case that she had shown “careless indifference to ascertaining the truth” and made a false statement to the court while failing to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense as required by the Constitution.
Gains has had multiple setbacks in these matters including a ruling by a judge that he can be sued for criminal acts, an appeals-court ruling against Gains allowing Desmond's whistleblower appeal to go forward, and the latest—a new Desmond whistleblower appeal after Gains suddenly confessed during the SPBR hearing—four-and-a-half-years after Desmond's termination—that he fired Desmond because Desmond blew the whistle to the Ohio Attorney General's office on yet other criminal misconduct in the Prosecutor's Office.
Desmond, who is representing himself in the SPBR matter, is co-counseled by Subodh Chandra and Patrick Haney.
Chandra said, "Lawyers have an obligation to speak truthfully to a tribunal. When they fail to do so, they fall short of what the justice system needs and deserves to fulfill its truth-seekihg function. And if they have lawyer clients who assent to the conduct, as Gains and Stratford have evidently done here, the problem is compounded."
"Why the Mahoning County Commissioners continue to indulge and enable Gains is beyond my comprehension," Chandra added. "They should pull the plug."
Today's motion for sanctions detailing the alleged professional misconduct can be found here. It contains a transcript showing Judge Inderlied's ruling, which proves why counsel's assertion was false.
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