Judge Blocks Garea Testimony in Marchionda Trial

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge Maureen Sweeney blocked attorney Stephen Garea in the upcoming corruption trial of Dominic Marchionda and David Bozanich.

In a judgment entry filed Monday, Sweeney sustained a motion by Marchionda’s legal counsel to suppress evidence obtained from Garea, a former attorney for Marchionda. She ruled that the crime-fraud exemption to attorney-client privilege did not apply. 

The decision follows “extensive hearings” that included testimony by Garea on motions filed by attorneys for Marchionda, whose companies have developed and managed several downtown Youngstown projects, and Bozanich, the city’s former finance director. They are scheduled to go on trial June 1.

Sweeney also listened in camera to five proffers given by Garea to state investigators probing corruption allegations related to Marchionda’s projects, reviewed relevant case law and the state Rules of Professional Conduct, and consulted with the state’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel. 

Marchionda’s attorney, John F. McCaffrey, argued that the proffers and testimony by Garea should be suppressed since they violate attorney-client privilege. State prosecutors argued that the proffers and testimony were permissible under court rules regarding confidentiality of information. 

In State ex rel. Nix v. Cleveland, the court ruled that “A communication is exempted from the attorney-client privilege if it is undertaken for the purpose of committing or continuing a crime or fraud.” 

The case also found that the “mere fact” that communications might be related to a crime was not sufficient to overcome attorney-client privilege.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.