YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – This week, WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford is talking with Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains for our In-Depth segment.
Today, she looks at what happens when prosecutors get involved in an investigation and how they take a case to court.
When a case comes to the prosecutor’s office, regardless of municipality and charges, there is a process as to how charges are filed. Gains says there are two ways.
“There are two ways to charge on a felony. Misdemeanors all go through the municipal court, and if you want to keep it just strictly Youngstown, we can do that. Or, they can directly present it. They can bring the file over to us and we can directly present to the grand jury. We will directly present cases where witnesses are reluctant to come forward to testify,” Gains explained.
Gains said many don’t want to testify at a preliminary hearing.
“We do a lot of direct presentments. More than we did when I took office,” he said.
Gains said witnesses are imperative.
“Without them, we can’t convict. We need the witnesses to come forward. Obviously, witnesses can be fearful. They don’t want to be bothered that prefer to go on with their lives, but unfortunately, when they take that stance, then the criminals win and they continue to remain at large and terrify the community,” Gains said. “We try to gather as much evidence as we can because nobody wants these people on the streets, especially police. And certainly, my lawyers don’t want them on the streets”
Plea bargaining is part of adjudicating a case. A suspect can come before the court and plead to a lesser charge. Gains the success of those deals depends.
“Plea bargains don’t always result in short periods of sentencing. Plea bargaining is an essential element of the criminal justice system, nationwide, and I’m talking about state and federal courts. Less than 10% of the cases go to trial. Ninety percent of them result in pleas pursuant to plea agreements,” Gains said.
On rare occasions, a plea agreement will not be offered.
“In those cases, the evidence has to be very strong,” Grains said.
The decision comes down to the risk of not being able to get a conviction. The defense lawyer and prosecutor will assess the case and the evidence is a major determining factor.
“There are times when people have mental health issues we try to address, so they may plead to a charge and placed on a period of probation but then they are ordered to get mental health counseling,” Gains said. “If there are people that need help, we try to help them.”
Dee also talked with the prosecutor about juveniles and the issue of recidivism and how that affects cases coming into the court. You can see that interview on First News at 5 p.m. Thursday or later on WKBN.com.