Lawyer: Chief will be cleared
By Peggy Sinkovich, The Vindicator (Youngstown, OH)

April 5, 2004

The chief used corporal punishment only in limited cases, his lawyer says.

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."

Explanation

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."

Agents investigating

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.


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