Sanctions rejected in RICO lawsuit

WARREN – The owner of a well-known restaurant in downtown Warren and his attorney will not have to pay the legal bills of two of the men accused of plotting to ruin the business in a rare civil racketeering lawsuit, a visiting judge hearing the case has decided.

Retired Stark County Common Pleas Court Judge Lee Sinclair ruled in a one-paragraph entry Friday that sanctions being sought by the defendants are not ”appropriate by rule or by statute.”

Sinclair’s ruling is the result, in part, of a hearing at the end of January in which defense attorneys Martin F. White and Sarah Kovoor argued the lawsuit, filed by Sunrise Inn owner Ken Haidaris, against their clients Robert Cregar and LaShawn Ziegler was frivolous, and because so, they wanted their legal fees paid.

A third person in the lawsuit, Joseph Sankey, and his attorney, Gil Blair, settled with Haidaris and his attorney, Dick Goodman, on the day of the hearing. Details have not been released.

Haidaris accused Cregar, owner of All-American Big Bob’s Bail Bonding; Sankey, a former bail bond agent for Cregar and former owner of the building that housed the Sunset Lounge; and Ziegler, whose Dream Team Productions managed the bar of conspiring to ruin the Sunrise Inn and redirect money to Cregar’s bail bonding business.

Haidaris dropped the lawsuit after Sankey sold the building to a church. Shortly after, White, Blair and Kovoor filed motions for sanctions against Haidaris and Goodman.

Friday’s ruling answered their claims. However, it can be appealed. And it gives caution to Haidaris and Goodman, stating that since the building has been sold, ”any refiling may have the potential for further scrutiny” for sanctions.

White and Kovoor said they do not expect to appeal the ruling by Sinclair.

Goodman said the case was ”meritorious” on the day it was filed and on the day it was dismissed and that he and Haidaris ”are going to evaluate our options” regarding refiling the racketeering case.