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Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo dies, the 2nd judge Russo to die on the bench since 2021, and one of three Russo's on the common pleas bench in the county.... Community activists allege that all of them are corrupt... By

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Longtime Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge passes away

By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor, associate publisher

CLEVELANDis  Ohio- Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Russo, one of 34 largely White judges on the general division common pleas bench of the county, has died at 68-years-old after an undisclosed illness.

On  the common pleas bench since 2002, Russo died Monday surrounded by family, and funeral arrangements are pending, sources said. Per state law, Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, will appoint his successor until an election for the seat is held, Cuyahoga County  the second largest of Ohio's 88 counties, and a Democratic stronghold that includes the majority Black major American city of Cleveland.

Judge Michael Russo was one of three judges  on the bench with the last name Russo and the second Russo to die on the bench since the late judge Joseph Russo. He died in October of 2021, also of an undisclosed illness.

The other two Russo's on the general division bench are former chief and administrative judge John Russo, and controversial Judge Nancy Margaret Russo, the first of the four Russo's to be elected to the bench in the county, she often brags.

Black community activists of Cleveland as a whole do not like any of the judges Russo, saying they are all allegedly part of the old guard and the intrinsic corruption that plagues the court where Blacks are disproportionately indicted, prosecuted, sentenced and unfairly imprisoned, many of the convictions later overturned, data show, and usually after long term imprisonment and an uphill and costly legal battle Also at issue, say activists, are grand jury indictment fixing by prosecutors with the help of the county clerk's office, falsification, and  tampering with records to get illegal convictions and plea deals against Blacks. Another of several other problems, activists say, is the unconstitutional denial of indigent counsel to poor Black defendants who judges and prosecutors do not like  and want to control for political and other reasons aside from court proceedings.

Indigent defendants, Blacks included, have a statutory right under Ohio law, and a constitutional right under the U.S. constitution to appointed counsel in serious cases, and throughout the proceedings, up to and including at trial.  Public records show, however. that these statutory and constitutional guarantees are being grossly denied by common pleas judges of Cuyahoga County without repercussions, thus resulting in erroneous criminal convictions.

Chief Judge Brendan Sheehan, who replaced Judge John Russo as head judge and who will not publicly criticize his judicial colleagues for gross impropriety on the bench no matter what they do, including interfering with Black and other defendants' Civil Rights by blatantly denying them their statutory and constitutional rights, told reporters that Judge Michael Russo was a tenacious judge who "displayed amazing strength while fighting his illness."

Community activists undoubtedly say otherwise and want an overhaul of the county's common pleas bench, and a new county prosecutor, they say.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 November 2023 22:25

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