Judicial candidate Chris Sammarone, won't acknowledge meeting

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By David Skolnick



Christopher Sammarone, a Mahoning County Court judicial candidate, refuses to acknowledge he was at a 2014 meeting at which his father, former Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone, said “anything is legal if no one else knows about it. I have been around a long time.”

A few lines from the ex-mayor during that conversation are included in his Aug. 30 indictment that charges him with 13 felonies and one misdemeanor.

But The Vindicator, which first heard a tape of the conversation back in 2014, confirmed Christopher Sammarone was at the meeting and that he also participated in the discussion.

The meeting between the Sammarones and Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras was to talk about the younger Sammarone leaving the county probate court primary after he lost the party’s endorsement to Susan Maruca in 2014.

Betras confirmed to the newspaper that he and the Sammarones are on the tape. His only other comment was: “The tape speaks for itself.”

Christopher Sammarone says on the tape that he would speak with Maruca before making a decision.

“I’ll talk to her. Tell her to call me,” he said on the tape.

He later says he’d be willing to meet with Maruca immediately though insists he can beat her.

Sammarone didn’t withdraw from the primary. He was defeated by Maruca, who lost the general election to Robert N. Rusu, an independent appointed to the vacant judicial seat in June 2014.

No charges were filed related to the conversation in which Charles Sammarone repeatedly states he is “old school” and that “one hand washes the other.”

When asked if he’s on the tape, Christopher Sammarone said: “You’re asking me to comment on something that occurred in 2014 that’s involving my father and his indictment that’s pending now against him.”

Asked if he doesn’t have an obligation as a lawyer and a judicial candidate to be forthcoming, Sammarone said: “I haven’t been charged with anything. My father’s the one who’s been indicted on the crime. He’s the one that’s got to answer for that. I haven’t been charged with anything. I’m not a defendant in that case.”

He added: “You can form your own opinions as to what you hear from that tape. All I know is if something occurred in 2014 and they felt I did something inappropriate, would you think that something would occur where I would have been criminally charged with something? I haven’t. My criminal record speaks for itself. There’s been nothing on that record that shows that I did anything wrong.”

Sammarone also said, “If that [tape] is a piece of evidence, first of all for it to be admissible in this case, it’s got to be relevant. So if it’s determined by the courts to be a relevant piece of evidence, then at some point in time you will hear the tape. You will know what’s on it. You will know its context. You will understand who was a party to that meeting, whatever the case may be.”

Sammarone is among six candidates running for an open county court seat. The position is held by suspended Judge Diane Vettori, who faces charges of mail fraud, structuring cash deposits and making false statements to law-enforcement officers in her capacity as a private attorney.

She is not seeking re-election.

“I appreciate the fact that you want the next judge in this court to be someone of integrity and character,” Sammarone said. “I believe I have all that.”

He said his father’s indictment has “caused nothing but difficulty for me in this race. It has put a strain on, obviously, our family and you can appreciate that. At this point in time, I support my father. He has had a very, very difficult time, and these are allegations.”

Sammarone’s father along with ex-city Finance Director David Bozanich, downtown property developer Dominic Marchionda and a dozen of the latter’s affiliated businesses were indicted Aug. 30 on 101 criminal counts that allege city hall was for sale.

Charles Sammarone served as mayor from August 2011 to December 2013. The indictment alleges that Sammarone solicited and received recurring cash payments from a vendor in return for steering projects to the company.

The former mayor allegedly took $1,000 and $1,500 monthly payments from an employee at an unnamed local business in exchange for receiving work in the city. The payments listed in the indictment extend from October 2012 to July 2013 and totaled $10,000.

The indictment states that the president or CEO of the local business was not aware of the payments.

Charles Sammarone also is accused of failing to disclose the payments along with rental income derived from owning a condo in Florida and is accused of making false statements about the money to state investigative officials.

He’s pleaded not guilty to the charges: one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, nine counts of bribery, three counts of tampering with records, which are all felonies, and a misdemeanor count of falsification.