YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On a December night in 1996, prosecutor-elect Paul Gains’ life would be forever changed.
“I thought it was a friend of mine bringing me a Christmas gift, and it was him, with the largest gun I ever saw, and he fired. I remember pivoting to the right, and I don’t remember feeling any pain in my arm but I remember feeling it in my back, and down I went, and I don’t remember anything after that,” Gains said.
This was the night someone tried to kill Gains after Lenine Strollo put out a hit on him for not cooperating with the mob. They didn’t want him to take office, because he refused to let them corrupt him.
“The shooter was supposed to leave a little bag of cocaine at my house, so it would be drug-related, and so they were gonna kill me and also ruin my reputation,” he said.
Thankfully, when the shooter went to take his final shot at Gains, the gun jammed. Years later, Mark Batcho, 35, of Youngstown would plead guilty to the shooting. He was hired by three of Strollo’s employees to carry it out.
Strollo would later testify that he hoped to replace Gains with attorney Michael Rich who has since pleaded guilty to accepting mob bribes in exchange for rigging civil service tests so Strollo could control police hiring in a town bordering Youngstown.
Gains recalled the night of the shooting Thursday at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. It was part of a panel discussion for a new podcast, ‘Crooked City: Youngstown, Ohio.’
The podcast is produced by Emmy award-winner Marc Smerling along with Youngstown-based podcast producer and WKBN producer Johnny Chechitelli.
Thursday’s panel, made up of Chechitelli, Gains, journalist Bertram de Souza and history professor Fred Viehe, discussed the podcast and some of the topics in it.
They recalled how the mob controlled the courts, the police, city officials, the drug game and more in the city of Youngstown.
“My first instructions from my brother was that once you start running for office and they start shaking your hand, make sure there’s not cash in that hand, and there was,” said former state representative Bob Hagan, who recalled running against Traficant.
They also discussed corrupt politician Jim Traficant.
Chechitelli made the point that despite Traficant being crooked and taking bribes, he was loved by the people. Gains says it’s because he responded to the public and the residents when they called on him for help.
But de Souza stated, that no matter how much good he did, he was still dishonest and corrupt.
The podcast goes into detail on the mob, Traficant, organized crime and how it all was taken down in the end. There are 15 episodes, 30 to 45 minutes each.