YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains has announced his retirement.
Gains announced his planned departure from the office Friday. His last day will be Nov. 30.
Gains has been a Valley fixture for decades. He served as an officer with the Youngstown Police Department for nearly 10 years, which is where he says he was inspired to become an attorney.
He graduated from Youngstown State University in 1976 and the University of Akron with a law degree in 1982.
In the mid-90s he had a decent law practice but with record-setting homicide rates and rumors of case fixing, he knew change was needed in the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office, only no one seemed interested.
“Believe me, I approached people to run, people that I thought were far more electable than me and they all said no. But I felt that somebody had to do something,” Gains said.
He was elected in 1996, defeating James Philomena. But even before he could be sworn in, he was shot in what we later learned was an assassination attempt by organized crime.
At the time, the local mob was run by Lenny Strollo. Strollo was concerned that Gains would not cooperate with the organization and ordered a hit. On Christmas Eve, Mark Batcho shot Gains multiple times, but the gun jammed and he took off. Gains survived, recovered, and took office, where he’s been for over 24 years.
Both Strollo and Batcho were convicted of their part in the plot and served time in prison.
Months after the attempt on Gains’ life, he took a phone call that would eventually lead to more than 70 federal convictions of local mobsters, political figures and others.
“And that fact of the matter is, that had it not been for her calling me, I don’t know what would have ever happened,” Gains said.
Others have run against Gains for prosecutor over the years but none successfully. Gains had become the Valley’s hero and voters pretty much conveyed their support at the ballot box by giving him the seat as long as he wanted it.
Although he is not recommending anyone at this point to take over the reins of his office, Gains said he hopes whoever that new person runs the office honestly and efficiently. For now, he hopes his legacy will be for the job he did while in office.
“I’m proud of that, and I believe that is what I will be best remembered for,” Gains said.
Mahoning County Democratic Chairman Chris Anderson said Gains leaves a long legacy.
“He fought for our county as a police officer. He fought for our county in the police unions. He single-handedly reshaped the prosecutor’s office. He took it from an incredibly inefficient organization to an incredibly efficient organization,” Anderson said.
By law, Mahoning County commissioners name an interim prosecutor to succeed Gains once he steps down, and the Democratic Party’s precinct committee members would eventually choose someone to fill out the remainder of Gains’ term. It will begin taking applications from lawyers who are interested.
We’ll accept those through December 9. Once December 9 happens, we’ll convene the party’s screening committee. The party’s screening committee will meet to vet individuals and they’ll conduct a thorough background check,” Anderson said.
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Recently, Gains recounted his time during those early years as a prosecutor and the attempt on his life in the podcast Crooked City. The podcast has gained national attention and was at the top of Apple’s podcast list.