YOUNGSTOWN — Mahoning County District Attorney Gina DiGinova said she has hired an assistant district attorney and is announcing another agent — and adds that the office is “missing nothing” after four people resigned.
The county attorney’s office in the past three months has lost two criminal prosecutors, including Jennifer McLaughlin, who was the head of the criminal division. She is now prosecuting criminal cases for the US Attorney’s Office.
In recent weeks, Attorney Kevin Trapp, one of two associate plaintiffs working primarily in the courtroom of Judge Anthony D’Onofrio of the Mahoning County Court of Common Appeals, left for the position of assistant district attorney in Trumbull County.
Also, Mark D’Apolito, the Mahoning County civil attorney, was appointed earlier this month to take over as Austintown town manager effective July 1.
Aaron Mickle was a criminal prosecutor under then-Mahoning County District Attorney Paul Gaines until late August, when Mickle went into private practice.
DeGeno-va became the district attorney in Mahoning County in January after Gains retired. Elected Prosecutor General 26 years.
DiGenova said she is not aware of any other criminal prosecutors who plan to leave in the next two months.
DiGenova said her office has made adjustments, including hiring another criminal prosecutor, and is “not missing a beat.”
“I’ve been here for 18 years. And during that time, we’ve seen these kinds of cyclical changes happen. People come, they go. Sometimes they use the job as a stepping stone to what they see as better opportunities, and I don’t begrudge anyone an opportunity if they feel like that. is what they want to do,” she said.
She said some of the resignations were “because of geographic locations, better opportunities for them and more money”.
For example, she said, “I couldn’t pay Mark Dapolito $120,000. There’s only so much I could do.”
McLaughlin, a longtime Mahoning County Assistant District Attorney, was appointed Chief of the Mahoning County Criminal Division in May 2024, at the same time as DiGenova named Senior Assistant District Attorney and Legal/Public Information Officer.
McLaughlin is among the attorneys whose role appears to have increased with the August 2024 departure of Don Cantalamessa, an assistant district attorney who has handled several major homicide cases.
McLaughlin played a key role in the September 21, 2020 trial of Kimoni Bryant and later Brandon Crump and Andre McCoy in the fatal shooting of Rowan Sweeney, 4, at a home on Perry Street in Struthers.
She and Assistant District Attorney Mike Iacovone have collaborated on Rowan and several other high-profile homicide cases in recent years, including the conviction last August of Lavontae Knight in the murder of a man and the wounding of a woman on the South Side in 2018.
Among McLaughlin’s current cases with the US Attorney’s office is the trial of four men accused of stealing about thirty firearms in the town of Brassville in March. The guys from Austintown, Boardman and Campbell.
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As for Trapp, he handled criminal trials and other criminal cases in Mahoning County for about a decade.
One high-profile case was the plea and 10-and-a-half-year prison sentence for Adrian Washington Jr., now 21, last July for fleeing police in a car, striking and killing former Youngstown State University football player Darius Shackelford in an east side crash, and then attempting to flee on foot. feet from the scene.
Trapp accepted a position with the Trumbull County District Attorney’s Office after receiving a $500,000 grant aimed at reducing violence, including homicides, assaults, sexual crimes, arson crimes, and gun crimes. Trapp will help prosecute such cases.
Trapp, a graduate of Howland High School, worked briefly as an intern in the Trumbull County office before working as an assistant district attorney in Mahoning County. Attorney General Dennis Watkins said he expects to hire another person for his “violent offender unit.”
DeGenova said Trapp’s new job is also closer to his home.
DeGenova’s reference to people leaving for “more money,” DeGenova said, applies to D’Apolito, who will make $120,000 a year as an Austintown manager — $40,000 more than he makes in the district attorney’s office. It is currently advertising for someone to replace D’Apolito, but is not advertising any criminal prosecutor vacancies to replace McLaughlin or Trapp.
She recently appointed a new criminal prosecutor – but said she is unable to publicly name the person yet.
“We’re going to make some internal moves,” she said of the new employee. Trapp has mostly worked in Donofrio’s courtroom, but DiGinova also has veteran prosecutor Marty Hume prosecuting cases in that court.
“We’re not quite sure where everyone is going yet,” DiGenova said. Some of the lawyers who left were not replaced. Instead, what we’ve done is redistribute their work to existing employees, so we’re doing more with less.
“A lot of people have stepped up and taken on a larger caseload, and that has enabled us to keep working without missing a beat.”
She also said that she did not appoint anyone to fill her previous position as Assistant Public Prosecutor and Information Officer, because she still performs these jobs in addition to being the Public Prosecutor, she said.
“I do two jobs. I did it to save some money, save some staffing costs and serve the public.”
She noted that Gaines hired former defense attorney Pat Kirali last fall to serve as a criminal prosecutor. Attorney Jeans hired Ed Czobor last fall to work on appeals.
DeGenova said her staff is close to completing this year’s annual report — a concept she started two years ago. He also reached out to other public information projects that she had started under Gains – in particular to conduct conversations with older people to help them avoid becoming victims of crime.
“We’re doing business as usual here,” she said. “There were a few people who left. It’s my turn. We’re trying to be as efficient as possible, mindful of taxpayers’ money and trying to provide the best possible service to the community at the lowest cost.”
She said the attorneys who work in county attorneys’ offices are much like workers in other industries — they’re in high demand.
“Within Ohio, there are a lot of attorney general offices looking for attorneys. It’s hard to keep people. People, especially post-COVID, tend to move around a little bit more.”
DeGenova said that in 2006, the number of prosecutors increased significantly due to the high number of cases at that time. Since then, the numbers have dropped, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mahoning County Clerk of Courts’ Office reports that the number of criminal cases in 2024 was about 770, down from about 840 in 2024. There were about 800 in 2020, about 1,110 in 2019 (pre-COVID-19), and about 1,210 in 2018.
DiGinova said she and Lynette Stratford, an assistant district attorney, “monitor our roster and our staffing needs all the time.” She said it changes based on the number and type of cases.
“There are fewer lawyers on our roster today than there used to be. By attrition, we’re letting some of that go and reevaluating it,” DeGenova said.
The office hired a civil attorney, Ray Hartsough, who handled public records requests, DiGinova said, but when he left to work in the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, he was not replaced.
Currently, there is only one Prosecutor, Judges D’Onofrio and R. Scott Kirchbaum. There are more in the other three courts.
“Based on our review, based on the analysis,” she said, “if you could manage the agenda yourself, we wouldn’t put two people out there.”