Mahoning Matters reached out to candidates running for local office with a standard list of questions aimed at helping voters make an informed decision in the 2020 election. Each campaign's response will be published in the Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana County Voter Guide as it is received and all responses are subject to minimal editing for clarity and/or length. Mahoning Matters does not endorse any candidate.
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Candidate Name: Marty Desmond
Office Sought: Mahoning County Prosecutor
Candidate's Party Affiliation: Republican
Candidate's City of Residence: Poland
Growing up on Youngstown’s northside, I experienced firsthand the crippling effects that violence, drugs, gangs, and corruption have on our community. My earliest memories include a neighborhood friend being shot and killed when I was 6 years old; being offered drugs as walked home from school when I was 9 years old, and seeing innocent people being harmed. I am a victim of violent crime myself having been kidnapped, robbed, and nearly murdered by a serial rapist who was stalking my mother. From an early age, I wanted to make our community safe and help those less fortunate. I have 18 years of law enforcement experience, including employment with Mahoning County Juvenile Court, F.B.I., and Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office. I prosecuted over 1,000 criminal defendants; was the lead prosecutor for the drug task force and violent crimes task force; and received awards and recognition from the F.B.I., Ohio Attorney General, and Mahoning Valley Chiefs of Police Association. One case I prosecuted was featured on Investigative Discovery Channel's show "Your Worst Nightmare" ("A Night Alone," season 3, episode 3). Another case I prosecuted was featured in "Sports Illustrated" ("Operation Stolen Base," November 13, 2017). I served on the National District Attorneys' Association's marijuana policy review panel, and taught several Criminal Justice classes at YSU as a part-time professor. I am actively involved in our community having volunteered with the Youngstown Community Initiative to Reduce Violent Program; United Way; and our Church. I am a volunteer basketball coach at the YMCA, Holy Family, and Team Cure AAU. My wife Sarah and I have been married for 19 years and have 4 children - Jack (16), Will (15), Brady (12), and Lucy (1). For more information, visit Desmond2020.com or Facebook.com/MartyDesmond2020.
1. What qualities do you possess that qualify you for the job you are seeking?
Experience: Graduated from John Carroll University (Accounting) and have been a CPA since 1999. Graduated cum laude from the University of Akron School of Law and have been a licensed attorney since 2004. In addition to my 18 years of law enforcement experience; I have over 4 years of experience in the private sector having worked for a large PR firm (accounting), for a law firm, and in private practice; and taught Criminal Justice classes at YSU. I have more criminal prosecutorial experience than my opponent, having prosecuted more criminal trials; argued more appeals; more court-time as prosecutor; litigated more motions; and presented more cases to the Grand Jury. Integrity: I do what is right, regardless of the criticism and consequences. I stand up to criminals on our streets and to wrongdoers on all levels. Due of the Court’s admonitions, I cannot address the current civil lawsuit/whistleblower case against my opponent. However, I can state that the Seventh District Court of Appeals ruled that I am a whistleblower. In 2000, after being appointed as a Special Agent and successfully completing training at the FBI Academy, I was not permitted to graduate because I displayed symptoms of PTSD (although never diagnosed) due to my being a victim of violent crime. The DOJ’s actions were unlawful and I would not stand for it. I filed a lawsuit against the DOJ and WON a six-figure settlement. The opinion rendered by the U.S. Court of Appeals in my case was a landmark decision in favor of victims’ right. Dedication: Experiencing the effects of crime on our community and being a victim of violent crime, I work tirelessly to ensure justice is served in every case. This is evident from the 5 individual awards I received from the FBI, and the awards the task forces and I received from the Ohio Attorney General and Mahoning Valley Chiefs of Police. My dedication is also evident from the innovative and complex prosecutions I regularly pursued. To my knowledge, I prosecuted more gang cases, state-level RICO cases, and state-level wiretap cases than any other assistant Mahoning County prosecutor.
2. If you are elected, is there anything in particular that you hope to accomplish? And briefly, what is it and why is it important?
It is time for change and I have the experience and dedication necessary to restore integrity to the prosecutor’s office and to move it forward as an advocate of justice for every resident. I will bring the much-needed leadership to the prosecutor’s office that has been missing for many years. My opponent’s lack of leadership is evident by the fact that he has not tried a criminal case in 12 years. Also, due to my opponent’s lack of leadership, many violent crimes, including murders, have been mishandled – leading to convictions being reserved and cases being dismissed. Therefore, my FIRST priority is to return justice and accountability to the prosecutor’s office. This is extremely important to restore faith in the prosecutor’s office. In 2004, the prosecutor’s office’s “pled-guilty-as-charged” rate was 96% at the time. As of 2019, that rate has plummeted to 57%, while the number of cases being dismissed per year during that time frame has more than doubled. I believe this decline of nearly 40% is a result of either cases not being charged properly, or cases not being diligently prosecuted resulting in lenient plea bargains. Regardless of the reason, the result is the same – more and more criminals are not being held accountable, but, rather, are being put back onto our streets to wreak havoc in our community. Based on these statistics, an average of 500-700 defendants per year are not being held accountable for the crimes charged. As prosecutor, I will ensure that wrongdoers are charged appropriately and held accountable for their actions. (Note: The aforementioned statistics are derived from the Ohio Supreme Court Reports).
3. What do you feel will be the top issue facing this office over the next term? How would you focus your efforts to tackle it?
The top issue facing the prosecutor’s office over the next term will be to re-establish our community’s faith in the criminal justice system. As stated above, my first priority is to return justice and accountability to the prosecutor’s office. My SECOND priority will be to take a smarter approach to prosecuting crimes. I will do so by restructuring the prosecutor’s office to ensure that the proper time and attention is given to each case. Additionally, I will ensure that every employee is properly trained to provide the most effective and efficient service to the prosecutor’s office and to the community. Due to my opponent’s lack of leadership, dozens of violent crimes, including murders, have been mishandled resulting in convictions being reversed and cases being dismissed. These are not innocent mistakes – but, rather, are the result of intentional acts such as refusing to provide evidence, violating the Constitution, failing to be prepared for trial, and improper indictments. As prosecutor, I will ensure that employees of the prosecutor’s office act ethically, lawfully, and professionally at all times. While mistakes are inevitable, intentional and harmful misconduct will not be tolerated. The best way to reduce crime is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. I will work hand-in-hand with community organizations, such as the CIRV program, to help our youth understand that there are better courses in life than crime. My office will have an active presence in our community, including participation in youth mentoring programs; providing better accessibility to the prosecutor’s office; and, most importantly, providing informative/educational opportunities to learn about the criminal justice system and how it works. By implementing these changes, we can stop the revolving door of justice and, instead, have a system that provides for permanent, long-lasting deterrents and answers.
4. What are your plans to ensure that all of your constituents would have access to the same resources and opportunities, regardless of race or socioeconomic status? In your view, where does the system fall short?
Justice is supposed to be impartial without regard to wealth, power, status, religion, gender, or race. As prosecutor, I will be tough on crime, but will ensure justice and accountability are achieved lawfully, impartially, and equitably. I am committed to making sure that justice will be firm, but also fair and balanced in Mahoning County. Having spoken with thousands of concerned citizens, the opinion is clear – my opponent’s failure to be present in the office, the courts, and the community have led to a lack of trust and loss of faith in the prosecutor’s office. Above, I outlined my top 2 priorities, which will establish justice and accountability in the prosecution of cases by ensuring that each case, each victim, and each defendant is given the individual time and attention necessary to achieve the criminal justice goals of punishment, rehabilitation, and deterrence. By requiring that each case is given unique and specific attention, all victims, parties, and defendants will have equal access to the prosecutor’s office, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. I will be active in the prosecutor’s office, in the court, and in the community. I intend on holding regular community forums to provide information about the criminal justice system, the courts, and the prosecutor’s office. I will establish a board to regularly review issues that arise across our community. By establishing such a system, our fellow citizens will have an immediate voice and direct link the prosecutor’s office and myself. My greater presence in the community will ensure greater access to all people, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. I will take a proactive approach to addressing issues within our community, not the failed reactive approach currently in place.
5. What are you doing to disrupt the status quo of politics? If you had the power, what one change would you make right now?
The political status quo is a result of politicians holding office for extended periods of time, which leads to complacency, incompetence, and corruption. The first change must be to establish term limits for every public office. I am disrupting the status quo by running against an opponent who has been in office for over 2 decades, but has not tried a criminal case in 12 years; has plummeting conviction rates; has increased cases being dismissed; has catastrophic mishandling of violent crimes, and has a ballooning budget. Every statistic reflects his failure as a leader, yet he remains in office keeping the status quo. Additionally, my opponent has taken over $20,000 in campaign contributions from dozens of individuals who have been accused of or convicted of organized criminal behavior and public corruption. He was recently seen hanging out in a casino with a known organized crime figure. Public records also show that my opponent has made false statements under oath. Such behavior is unacceptable for any public official, especially the prosecutor. Yet he remains in office keeping the status quo. My opponent at one time (decades ago) may have been a decent prosecutor, but those days are long gone. He has put his friends and politics first. He has forgotten what it means to be a prosecutor. It is time for change.
6. Are you satisfied with Ohio's response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If yes, why? If not, what do you think should be done instead? Can more be done at the local level? The federal level?
I believe it is unfair to second-guess our local, state, and federal officials’ response to COVID-19. This pandemic presents issues our world has never seen in modern times. The information and data have been voluminous, complex, and often times contradictory. Thus, decisions made one day, may be disputed the following day. I think our state and local officials have performed appropriately in the face of such a convoluted and complex event. My only complaint is that a health issue should not be politicized. We as a country need to work together to address this pandemic.
7. The state is expected to make cuts in its upcoming budget in light of the reduction in tax revenue because of the pandemic. How should the state and local government set budget priorities? How deeply should cuts be made? What should your office be doing, or is doing, to prepare?
Mahoning County’s budget is primarily set by the Commissioners. Although I will work with them to establish a budget, the allotment of funds is ultimately left to them. However, I plan on decreasing the grotesquely bloated budget of the prosecutor’s office. So, my THIRD priority is to reduce the budget of the prosecutor’s office. The budget has skyrocketed under my opponent’s administration, including doubling the number of criminal prosecutors. Yet the office’s performance continues to disappoint, as mentioned above with the declining “guilty-as-charged” rate, the increased number of cases being dismissed, and the increased mishandling of violent crimes cases. For example, the prosecutor’s office had 38 criminal trials in 2008, as compared to only 10 criminal trials in 2019. Yet during that time period, the office’s budget increased by over $1 million. I will reduce the budget by approximately $400,000 in my first 6 months in office. I will work to have these funds directed to the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department for the employment of additional deputies (or raises as they are due) or for other programs. Additionally, I will prosecute cases myself and be active in the courtroom, thus reducing the need for additional prosecutors. Simply put, I will not waste taxpayers’ hard-earned money to build a political empire that is continually failing our community. I will do more with less. I will also seek out and obtain alternative means of funding, such as state and federal grants. During my time as the lead task force prosecutor, we funded much of the task force with grant money. I will also actively seek forfeiture of property belonging to criminal defendants and derived from criminal activity.
8. What do you think is the most pressing matter that pertains to the next generation of Ohioans who may be voting for the first time?
I think the most pressing issue for the next generation of Ohioans is to heal the division in our country. We must be willing to accept that others may not share our same views, but we must still be willing to work together for the betterment of our country. We must appreciate and respect our country and our fellow citizens. In difficult times, too often we lose sight of how fortunate we are and how far we have come as a country. We cannot let fear, anger, and anxiousness control our thoughts and actions. We must remain hopeful and continue to work together.
9. Are you frustrated by the political sniping, exaggeration and even lies between the parties and their supporters that has diminished respect and reasoned compromise? If so, what will you personally do to make the situation better?
The deceit and down-right lies told during political races are sickening and disheartening. While politics is competitive, we have lost sight of a process that ensures the most qualified and proper candidate succeeds. I have promised myself and my supporters that I will not stoop to such unethical means. Every speech, every statistic, every word I utter during my campaign will be backed up with sufficient, competent, and credible information and documentation – the same standard I use as a lawyer. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for my opponent. He has gone so far as to completely misquote statements that I have made, including posting a court transcript which clearly shows his claims are false. He has repeatedly lied and been caught doing so during candidate forums. And now, he is refusing to debate me. Real lawyers are not afraid to debate – it is what we do for a living. The fact that my opponent will not debate proves my point – he is not being truthful and he does not know what is going on in his own office. He knows I would expose his failures during a debate and has chosen to hide. Simply, it is way past his time to leave office.
10. Who is your hero, and why?
I am fortunate because I have more heroes than I can count. I believe anyone who lives a faithful, truthful, law-abiding life, and provides for the greater good of one’s family, friends, and community is a hero. And I have many such individuals in my life. I also have 3 special inspirations in life – Jesus, my dad, and my uncle. I am a devoted Catholic and live my life the way I believe Jesus would want me to live. My faith in Jesus has led me through difficult times in my life and kept me humble during prosperous times. My dad, John Desmond, grew up in a poor family and had to work all his life. He was drafted and served in the Army during WWII. Afterward, he went to YSU on the GI Bill, graduated with an accounting degree, and became a CPA. He worked and eventually opened his own CPA firm. My dad was not the type of father who was present at every ball game or school function, because he worked so much. He did not like work over family, but he wanted to provide for his family all the things he did not have as a child. He sacrificed his own self-interests for our family. My dad passed away in 1997 when I was only 23 years old. Although I miss him every day, his life lessons shaped who I am today – honest, hard-working, putting others first. My uncle, Judge Marty Joyce, had a childhood similar to my dad’s. He too worked his way through college and then law school. He had a distinguished career as a lawyer and judge – even having the Mahoning County Juvenile Court named after him. But despite all his accomplishments, he led a simple, humble life. He taught me the greatest three lessons in life are (1) to keep things simple; (2) to always do the right thing no matter the criticism or consequences; and (3) to always be faithful and to love God.