Belinky target of search

YOUNGSTOWN – Federal, state and local law enforcement officials on Friday searched both the Youngstown home of Mahoning County Probate Court Judge Mark Belinky and the court where the Democrat has presided since 2007.

The warrants served at 4032 Windsor Road, owned by Belinky and his wife, and on the first floor of 120 Market St. – the probate court inside the Mahoning County Courthouse – are part of what’s being called an ”ongoing criminal investigation” by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Office.

A spokesman for DeWine, Dan Tierney, was unable to ”confirm the nature of the investigation or potential suspects.”

A spokeswoman for DeWine, Jill Del Greco, said agents removed paper documents, computers and / or other electronic media. The affidavits used to obtain the search warrants are sealed, she said.

DeWine declined to comment when reached on his cell phone late Friday afternoon.

A record search on the Mahoning County Auditor’s website lists the owners of the Windsor Road home as the Belinkys.

Belinky was appointed probate court judge in 2007 and then won election to a six-year term on the bench in 2008. He is up for reelection this year, facing two challengers in May’s Democratic primary election.

Reached by cell phone, Belinky said, ”On the advice of counsel, I will only say since my election, I have faithfully discharged the duties as judge of the Mahoning County Probate Court.”

Del Greco said the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, an arm of the Attorney General’s Office, is leading the investigation and working with the FBI and Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office. Boardman police helped with the search at the Windsor Road home, but are not playing a role in the investigation.

The warrants were served between 3 and 5 p.m.

David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, declined to comment, as did Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains.

What impact Friday’s events may have on Belinky’s prospects for reelection could be seen as early as Feb. 22, when central committee members of the Democratic party in Mahoning County gather to endorse candidates for the party nomination.

Belinky finds himself in a three-way race with attorneys Susan Maruca, who lost a 2008 primary race for judge that involved Belinky and Christopher Sammarone, son of Charles Sammarone, president of Youngstown City Council.