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Judicial CP - April 2004
The Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio, 3 April 2004
Lawyer alleges Fowler police chief paddled teen in diversion program
The suit seeks more than $200,000 in punitive and compensatory damages
By Peggy Sinkovich
YOUNGSTOWN A Vienna boy and his mother filed a lawsuit alleging that Fowler Township's chief of police violated the teenager's constitutional rights by paddling him as part of a juvenile diversion program.
Attys. Alan J. Matavich and Sarah Kovoor filed the lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of Richard Thomas Woolf and his mother, Carol Woolf, in U.S. District Court in Youngstown
The suit seeks more than $100,000 in punitive damages and more than $100,000 in compensatory damages.
The suit names Fowler Township, Trustees Tom L. Carr, James Haun and John Gallatin, and Police Chief James Martin as defendants.
Neither township officials nor Atty. Randall Weltman, who represents Martin, could be reached to comment.
The suit states that on Jan. 9, a township police officer arrested Richard on charges of speeding and driving without a license. The officer told the boy to tell his parents and then to contact the chief about being eligible for the diversion program, the lawsuit states.
Richard and his mother met with Martin on Jan. 10. Martin and Woolf agreed that Richard would take part in the program, the suit states.
On Jan. 16, Richard went to the police department for his first probation meeting with Martin.
"During the course of the first probation meeting, Defendant Martin instructed plaintiff to drop his trousers, bend over and grab his ankles," the lawsuit states. "Defendant Martin then struck plaintiff three times on his buttocks with a paddle, inflicting visible injuries and physical and emotional pain."
The physical punishment constitutes a violation of Richard's constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, the suit states.
At a press conference Tuesday at Kovoor's office, Carol Woolf said she allowed her son to take part in the diversion program because Martin told her that if she didn't, her son could face long-lasting consequences if convicted of the traffic charges.
"I told him I didn't like the part of the corporal punishment, but he told me that he has been doing this diversion program and it works," she said as tears filled her eyes. "I thought I was helping my son. I had no idea."
She said that when she picked up her son after his first probation meeting, he ran from the building and begged her not to make him return.
"He was very, very upset," Woolf said. She said when she noticed her son was bruised she called Kovoor.
"I did not want him to go back," she said.
Kovoor noted that federal and state officials are investigating Martin.
"We were told that videotapes were found," Kovoor said. "He apparently videotaped some of the paddlings. We will be asking for copies."
Martin was placed on unpaid suspension Monday, said Atty. Mark Finamore, the township's legal counsel.
Martin, who also is a captain in the Howland Township Police Department, also was suspended from his post there, said Police Chief Paul Monroe.
According to a 1993 internal investigation conducted by former Howland Police Chief Steve Lamantia, Martin had admitted paddling juveniles in the past.
Lamantia's investigation states that Martin admitted paddling about 20 juveniles at the Howland Township Police Department from 1975 to 1992. The paddlings were done as part of a juvenile diversion program, Lamantia said. Lamantia removed Martin as diversion officer Feb. 16, 1993.
Copyright © 2004, The Vindicator
The Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio, 3 April 2004
Lawyer: Chief will be cleared
The chief used corporal punishment only in limited cases, his lawyer says
By Peggy Sinkovich
FOWLER The township chief accused of paddling teenagers involved in a juvenile diversion program did nothing criminal, his lawyer says.
Atty. Dominic Vitantonio, who represents Chief James Martin, said he believes no charges will be filed once federal and state agents finish reviewing all the information on his client's case.
"I don't believe there is anything there," Vitantonio said Friday from his Mayfield office.
He said Martin used corporal punishment in his diversion program only in limited cases. When paddling was used, the juvenile and parents both agreed.
"The juvenile and parent both signed agreements," Vitantonio said.
Atty. Sarah Kovoor, who represents a teenage boy suing Martin, states that she believes the use of paddling was improper. She said her client was forced to take off his pants and had welts when the paddling was finished.
"It's assault and battery," Kovoor said. "Also, I'm very concerned that the children were videotaped being paddled. They were taped without consent or without the parents' knowledge."
Vitantonio, however, stressed that the reason the paddlings were videotaped was to protect everyone's rights.
"Some people want to make him out as being sinister, but the tapes were made to document everything," Vitantonio said. "I believe once the videotapes and the documents are reviewed by everyone this will be over."
Vitantonio says he has not yet seen the tapes. The tapes have been confiscated by law enforcement officials who searched Martin's home and office.
"I'm trying to get the tapes to review," Vitantonio said. "The officials also took his computer and his daughter's computer that she needs for school. He runs a security business, and he can't even send bills out because he doesn't have his computer. They completely shut him down."
Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said agents from the FBI and state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation are investigating the matter. When the investigation is completed it will be presented to the county grand jury, Watkins said.
Martin, who is also a full-time captain in Howland, could not be reached.
Fowler and Howland officials have placed Martin on unpaid leave pending the investigation.
Fowler trustees said the township will no longer operate the juvenile diversion program.
Copyright © 2004, The Vindicator
Tribune Chronicle, Warren, Ohio, 9 April 2004
New paddling suit filed
By Charles Mason
WARREN - A 36-year-old mother of three boys from Howland said Thursday that her 18-year-old son was paddled by a veteran police officer to avoid two years in jail and a $2,000 fine after the teen got into a fight at Howland High School.Robert J. McCrystal, 18, of Warren, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Howland and Fowler townships and trustees from both townships, Howland police Chief Paul Monroe and Howland police Capt. James Martin.
Howland Township Administrator Darlene St. George had no comment Thursday on the lawsuit.
Prior to Thursday, paddling allegations against Martin had been contained to Fowler, where Martin has been the part-time police chief for the past seven years. Fowler officials have declined to comment. Martin has been suspended without pay by both Howland and Fowler.
Martin's attorney, Dominic Vitantonio, said Thursday that the officer has done nothing of a criminal nature, and said Martin documented every step of the juvenile diversion program he was running in Fowler, including taping of the paddlings and receiving signed permission from parents.
"He's (Martin) got nothing to hide," said Vitantonio of Mayfield Heights, who is representing Martin through the Ohio Policemen's Benevolent Association.
Martin has not been charged with anything. A grand jury in Trumbull County has been meeting this week and hearing evidence in the matter.
When the paddling allegations surfaced in Fowler through a different federal lawsuit last week, Beatrice DeLung, McCrystal's mother, said she was upset.
"I was sick about it," DeLung said at Warren attorney Sarah Thomas Kovoor's office. "I'm mad at myself for signing the consent. It was either that or go to prison for two years (for her son)."
Kovoor also filed the first lawsuit.
Trustees named are Rick G. Clark, Richard Orwig and Sally B. Wehmer of Howland and Tom L. Carr, James Haun and John Gallatin of Fowler. The suit asks for more than $200,000 in damages.
The lawsuit filed last week was by a Vienna mother on behalf of her 16-year-old son, a sophomore at Mathews High School. That mother alleges Martin paddled her child, and that lawsuit also asks for more than $200,000 in damages, but it only names Martin and Fowler officials.
The newest lawsuit states that McCrystal was involved in a fight at Howland High School on Oct. 15, 2003. DeLung said Howland School Resource Officer Eric Bowker took a report on the incident at the school. The suit claims that two days later, DeLung received a telephone call from a member of the Howland Police Department regarding the case. The person is not identified in the suit, and DeLung said Thursday that it was not Martin.
DeLung states she was told by that officer that parents of the Howland student her son fought would be pursuing aggravated menacing charges against McCrystal, and because he had turned 18 on Oct. 16, McCrystal was facing two years in jail and a $2,000 fine if convicted. That's when the juvenile diversion program was suggested, although McCrystal is an adult.
DeLung contacted Martin Oct. 18, 2003, and they met Oct. 31, 2003. At that meeting, the lawsuit states, Martin told McCrystal he would have to sign over his adult rights to DeLung. Martin prepared a Youthful Offender Alternative Sentencing Offender Information Report and also a list of the program's rules.
McCrystal attended his first meeting Nov, 7, 2003. The lawsuit states that during that first meeting, the young man was paddled by Martin, with McCrystal instructed to bend over and grab his ankles. Martin then hit McCrystal three times on the backside with a paddle, the suit alleges. Unlike the first lawsuit, there's no allegation that McCrystal was instructed to drop his pants and be paddled in his underwear.
The suit alleges McCrystal then attended subsequent sessions, being paddled a total of 16 times during five weeks. The suit alleges McCrystal's civil rights were violated as was his right to privacy since the sessions were recorded.
DeLung said that the last time her son was paddled, she did it and he was 8. She said Thursday that her son told her Martin hits harder than she does.
Kovoor said the two lawsuits portray a police officer setting himself above the law.
"The whole thing is Alice in Wonderland," Kovoor said. "He (Martin) started his own court and enacted his own punishment. He's taken over the jurisdiction of the juvenile judge."
DeLung, whose other boys are 15 and 17, said McCrystal is about 150 pounds and stands about 5-foot-6. The mother said her son is embarrassed and humiliated by the paddlings.
"He wants officer Martin not to do this again," she said her son said.
Vitantonio said Martin's three swats aren't criminal. The attorney said when he attended Lakewood St. Edwards in 1978, he was disciplined by three swats, "and I wasn't traumatized."
He said corporal punishment is a hot topic these days, and he thinks Martin is caught up in that debate. He also said money could be a motivation in the federal lawsuits. He was suspicious about the timing.
"Why is this happening now?" the attorney asked.
Vitantonio said he's still attempting to review documents and other evidence seized by the FBI and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification. Three computers and other records were seized at Martin's home, including the computer he uses to run his Trumbull Security business. The attorney has written investigators asking for the business computer back.
Vitantonio said Martin led the authorities to his house and allowed them to execute a search warrant. "They asked him if they could come to his house," the attorney said.
Vitantonio said his client will now await the decision of the county grand jury.
"We'll take it one step at a time," he said.
Asked how Martin is holding up emotionally during this time, his attorney replied, "He's (Martin) naturally all stressed out over this. It came unexpectedly. It's totally turned his life upside down."
Tribune Chronicle, Warren, Ohio, 29 April 2004
Grand jury hears chief
By Christopher Bobby
WARREN - Fowler police Chief James Martin testified Wednesday for more than two hours in front of a grand jury, which is considering potential criminal charges involving the officer's diversion program in which teens were spanked.Flanked by his attorney, Dominic Vitantonio, Martin apparently elaborated on the special program that his superiors said they did not know existed.
After Martin, grand jurors heard from a state agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, believed to be the final witness in the case that has been heard at least three times during the last month.
A report on the case, including whether there are indictments or "no bills," is expected by next week.
"These were properly administered spanks," said Vitantonio, pointing out that parents agreed to the conditions of the diversion program.
"Times have changed since he went to school. But a lot of parents thought it would help their kids. He turned some lives around," the lawyer said. "A lot benefited from the program."
Last week, teen paddling victims with their parents were brought before the same grand jury.
Martin, who also serves as a captain in the Howland Police Department, was placed on unpaid leave March 29 by both Fowler and Howland departments.
Also Wednesday, Howland trustees granted Martin a continuance on an administrative hearing. They said the hearing will be set after the grand jury takes action to either indict or clear the officer.
An attorney who represents five of the teens has filed three federal lawsuits, claiming certain civil rights violations.
Federal authorities approached officials in Howland and Fowler, informing them of possible corporal punishment and civil rights violations involving the diversion program Martin once operated in Howland and apparently reorganized when he became Fowler chief seven years ago.
Student-age offenders were ordered to obey a series of rules doled out by Martin and submit to paddlings when they kept appointments and met with the chief, according to former Howland police Chief Steve Lamantia, who ordered Martin to stop any youth diversion program after he became chief in 1993.
Lamantia, who with others testified before the grand jury April 7, said he is confident Martin operated no program in Howland while he was chief for 10 years.
240 Franklin St. S.E. | Warren, Ohio 44482 Copyright © 2003 Tribune Chronicle
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