YOUNGSTOWN Federal judge rules against police officers

The officers' lawyer said an appeal will be filed.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Two city police officers -- one current, one former -- who claimed selective prosecution have lost their case in federal court.
In a ruling issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus concluded that Mark Rakocy and Christopher Lombard failed to produce evidence necessary to demonstrate a violation of their rights by the city.
Based on a complaint in March 2001 by Thomas Cole Jr. of Struthers, Rakocy and Lombard were indicted and charged with robbery. In January 2002, a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court jury acquitted both men.
The city later fired Rakocy and Lombard, who then appealed. Rakocy won his job back, Lombard did not.
Rakocy and Lombard's federal lawsuit said they had been singled out, noting that other officers in similar situations had not been investigated.
Judge's order
Judge Economus, in his order, said the plaintiffs did not identify even one similarly situated Youngstown Police Department officer who had been accused of committing a felony but was not investigated. The judge said their court papers contain unsupported allegations instead of facts.
As an example, the judge said Rakocy and Lombard said their case was the first in decades in which the city prosecuted an officer criminally and, when that failed, terminated his employment administratively. "Remarkably, plaintiffs do not cite any evidence in the record to substantiate this allegation," the judge said.
Warren attorney Sarah T. Kovoor, who represents Rakocy and Lombard, said Wednesday that she will appeal immediately.
Last month, Cole recanted his story about the robbery, saying in a sworn affidavit that he was "forced" by the YPD Internal Affairs Division to make the allegation against the officers. Cole's affidavit states that he told IAD investigators that he lost his money and gold chain at the bar and didn't remember much from the night because he was drunk and that Rakocy and Lombard committed no crime against him.
Judge Economus said in his order that a photocopy, not the original Cole affidavit, was filed with the court. He said a motion by the defense to strike the affidavit was moot because it was never filed.
Lawyer's comment
Kovoor said copies are regularly filed with the court. She said if Cole's affidavit isn't enough to go to trial, she doesn't know what is.
The judge pointed out that the IAD investigators were not defendants in the federal lawsuit, and Cole's affidavit does not connect their reported actions to any custom or policy of the city. Rakocy and Lombard had claimed that the city has a "custom and policy of ignoring or downplaying violations by YPD officers of departmental rules and regulations, city ordinances and Ohio statutes."
The judge said the evidence showed just the opposite and used a quote from one former officer's affidavit that stated former Police Chief Richard Lewis "has adopted an attitude that all officers who receive a complaint against them are automatically guilty and should be punished as severely as possible ... if they aren't one of his friends."