A native of the Mahoning Valley, Prosecutor Gains attended local schools and is an Ursuline High School graduate. He served a six-year enlistment in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, during which time he became a patrolman with the Youngstown Police Department. During his law enforcement career, Prosecutor Gains received four meritorious service commendations, including the firefighter’s lifesaving award. He was also elected by his peers to serve as President of the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 28. While working a full-time job with YPD, Prosecutor Gains attended and graduated from college at Youngstown State University and later attended the University of Akron School of Law where he earned his Juris Doctor degree in 1982.
Upon earning his law degree, Prosecutor Gains left the police department to practice law. He practiced in both State and Federal Courts, where he focused on criminal defense, the civil defense of police officers, public sector labor law, and the prosecution and defense of personal injury claims. Prosecutor Gains’ distinguished legal career earned him the honor of Mahoning County Lawyer of the Year in 1992, along with the late Mary Jane Stevens, for their joint efforts freeing a wrongfully convicted man.
After maintaining a private law practice for 15 years, Prosecutor Gains successfully ran for Mahoning County Prosecutor after learning from clients that cases were being fixed by his predecessor, James A. Philomena. Prosecutor Gains rebuffed offers of assistance from local members of organized crime, and, as a result, a contract was placed on his life to keep him from taking office. On Christmas Eve, 1996, an intruder entered his home, shot him and left him for dead. Fortunately, Prosecutor Gains survived, and was sworn in as the new Mahoning County Prosecutor in 1997. His survival resulted in successful state and federal prosecutions of over seventy people, including lawyers, judges, law enforcement officers, and many others for acts of public corruption.
As Mahoning County’s longest serving Prosecuting Attorney (1997 – present), Prosecutor Gains oversees an office of more than sixty employees which includes assistant prosecuting attorneys, administrative staff and investigators in both our Criminal and Civil Divisions. The office prosecutes felony offenses committed by adults in Mahoning County, misdemeanor offenses committed by adults occurring within the territorial jurisdiction of our four county courts, and all offenses committed by juveniles. The office also serves as legal counsel to all county agencies, county officials, county boards and all fourteen townships.
Gina DeGenova, Chief Assistant, Legal and Public Information Officer is a life-long area resident having grown up in Niles. She graduated from Niles McKinley High School before attending Youngstown State University where she graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science degree. She then received her Juris Doctorate from the Cleveland Marshall School of Law. Ms. DeGenova Zawrotuk worked as a general civil attorney in private practice before joining the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office in 2005. During her tenure with the Prosecutor’s Office, Ms. DeGenova Zawrotuk served as litigation counsel for Mahoning County, including serving as lead counsel for Mahoning County Sheriff, Jerry Greene and other elected officials including the Board of Mahoning County Commissioners. She was promoted to Chief Assistant Prosecutor in January, 2021 and also serves as the Office’s Public Information Officer. She is a member of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Ohio Township Association, the Youngstown Business and Professional Women’s Association and the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Executive Association, Inc.
Ralph Rivera, Assistant Chief, Criminal Division, is a life-long member of the Mahoning Valley, having grown up in Campbell. He graduated from Ursuline High School before attending Youngstown State University where he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science. He then received his Juris Doctorate from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University. While in law school, his Note was chosen for publication in Volume 19, Issue 1 of the Journal of Law and Health. This Note focused on mentally ill offenders’ right to receive mental health care treatment while incarcerated in local jails and prisons. He also served as an Executive Editor for the Journal of Law & Health. Mr. Rivera worked as a Law Clerk in the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas before joining the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office in 2007. During his tenure with the Prosecutor’s Office, Mr. Rivera worked in the Appellate Division where he manages the criminal appellate docket. The appellate docket includes all direct and discretionary appeals filed in the Seventh District Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Ohio. He is also responsible for all post-trial capital defendants, which includes responding to and prosecuting all direct appeals, postconviction petitions, and clemency reviews before the Ohio Parole Board. In January, 2021, Mr. Rivera was promoted to Assistant Chief of the Criminal Division. Mr. Rivera very active in the Boardman-Youngstown area, volunteering his time with various organizations, including, Boardman Civics Association, Boardman Community Baseball, Steel Valley Storm Fastpitch, and the Boy Scouts of America Troop #60. He is also a member of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
Jennifer McLaughlin, Chief of the Criminal Division, grew up in Columbiana, Ohio and currently resides in Mahoning County. Ms. McLaughlin graduated from Columbiana High School in 1997 then attended college at Youngstown State University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. In 2005, Ms. McLaughlin graduated Cum Laude from the University of Akron School of Law with a Juris Doctorate. She was admitted to the practice of law in Ohio in November, 2005. After spending two years in private practice, Ms. McLaughlin joined the Criminal Division of the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office in 2008. During her time as an Assistant Prosecutor, she worked as a courtroom prosecutor as well as a member of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) unit, representing the State of Ohio in more than 40 criminal trials. On VAWA, Ms. McLaughlin prosecuted Felony cases involving sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and human trafficking. She has also served as part of the prosecution team on several capital murder cases. Ms. McLaughlin was promoted to Chief of the Criminal Division in January, 2021, and currently oversees the prosecution of criminal cases at the Felony, Misdemeanor, and Juvenile levels for Mahoning County. Outside of work, Ms. McLaughlin is an avid supporter of various animal rescue groups.
Chief Assistant Linette Stratford is a resident of Austintown, Ohio. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Youngstown State University with a double major in accounting and philosophy. She received her Juris Doctorate from the Ohio State College of Law in 1990. Prior to joining the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office in 1994, she worked for a private law firm practicing in the areas of commercial litigation, bankruptcy and taxation. Attorney Stratford was promoted to Chief of the Civil Division in 1999 wherein she supervised the work of assistant prosecutors and staff handling civil litigation, contracts, opinions and miscellaneous matters for all county and township officials. In 2011, Attorney Stratford was promoted to Chief Assistant managing both criminal and civil division and the general operations of the office. Attorney Stratford also serves as an adjunct professor at Youngstown State University where she teaches business ethics and philosophy of law. She provides professional ethics training to attorneys through the Academy of Continuing Legal Education. And she is a member of the National District Attorneys Association, Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, and the Ohio Township Association.
Karen M. Gaglione was born and raised in the Mahoning Valley, having grown up in Austintown Township. She graduated from Austintown Fitch High School and attended Bowling Green State University and graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a minor in Psychology. Ms. Gaglione received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Akron School of Law in 1992. She worked as a general practice attorney before serving as a law clerk in the Seventh District Court of Appeals. Ms. Gaglione joined the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office in 1994. As an Assistant Prosecutor, Ms. Gaglione works predominately with the Mahoning County Townships. She is a member of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Ohio Township Association, and the National District Attorneys Association.
Lori L. Shells Simmons was born in Youngstown, Ohio, to Rev. Lawrence and Artesia Shells on March 18, 1963. One of 4 daughters, she was raised in the church her father, Rev. Shells, founded, Christian Bible Baptist Church in Youngstown, Ohio. After graduating from Cardinal Mooney High School in 1981, she attended The University of Akron, majoring in pre-medicine, achieving a Bachelor of Science degree in 1985. Changing her mind about career choices, she attended The University of Akron’s School of Law in 1988 and concurrently The University of Akron’s Graduate School, achieving a joint Juris Doctorate and Master’s in Public Administration in 1991. Subsequently, after passing the Ohio State Bar Exam in November 1991, she joined the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office as an Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor assigned to the Mahoning County Juvenile Court. As a result, Juvenile and Family law became her passion, always striving to ensure that justice was the result. After being assigned for 10 years in juvenile court, she was transferred to the Court of Common Pleas for 2 years. After that, she moved to Mahoning County Children Services Board as the Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor assigned there, where she still is present. Atty. Shells Simmons is also avidly involved in the community as well, currently holding memberships on several community boards, such as YSU’s IRB (Institutional Review Board), Mahoning County Bar Association, The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, The National Bar Association, The National Black Prosecutor’s Association, The Ohio Prosecutor’s, Association and the National District Attorney’s Association. Very active in her church, New Bethel Baptist Church in Youngstown, she is a newly nominated Deaconess and training to be a Sunday School Teacher. She is also Asst. Director for the church’s Vacation Bible School. Further, she is a board member of NBC Visions, an affiliated non-profit organization. A wife to Dwayne Simmons and proud parent of a 21 21-year-old daughter, Geordyn, and 27-year-old son, George, Atty. Shells Simmons strives to keep God first while she endeavors to dispense justice and reunify families.
Michael J. Yacovone, Grand Jury Prosecutor, graduated from Austintown Fitch High School before attending the University of Akron where he majored in Political Science with minors in Pre-Law, Criminal Justice, and American Government. He then received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Akron School of Law with a Certificate in Litigation. Mr. Yacovone worked as a Certified Legal Intern for the City of the Barberton Law Department, clerked for Akron Municipal Court Judge Jerry Larson, and practiced law as a private attorney in the Youngstown and Akron areas before joining the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office in 2013. During his tenure with the Prosecutor’s Office, Mr. Yacovone successfully prosecuted criminals charged with crimes ranging from capital murder to minor traffic offenses. In January, 2021, Mr. Yacovone was promoted to Grand Jury Prosecutor. As Grand Jury Prosecutor, Mr. Yacovone is tasked with case intake, presentation to the Mahoning County Grand Jury and advising police on investigative matters. Mr. Yacovone is a member of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the National District Attorney’s Association, serves as the Vice President of the Carovillese Men’s Society, and as a volunteer statistician for the Austintown Fitch football team.
Robert J. Andrews, Senior Trial Counsel, graduated from Grove City College with a double major in Business Administration and Political Science. He then received his Juris Doctorate from the University Of Toledo School Of Law. Attorney Andrews worked in the Portage County Prosecutor’s Office for the first five years of his career, starting in municipal court for one year, served as head of the Portage County Drug Task Force for two years, with the final two years running the Portage County Crimes against Women and Children Unit. He then went into general private practice for three years, first in Niles and later in Boardman, where he specialized in criminal defense and domestic relations. In 1999, Attorney Andrews joined the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office as an Assistant Prosecutor, where he has litigated all types of felonies ranging from drug and theft cases to capital murders. During his tenure with the Prosecutor’s Office, Attorney Andrews has served in the Violent Crimes Unit as Grand Jury Prosecutor and trained many new criminal assistant prosecutors in their first assignments. He was recently promoted to Senior Trial Counsel in March 2021. Attorney Andrews also advises local police departments and speaks at training seminars regarding general criminal procedures and the filing of charges. He is a member of the National District Attorneys Association, Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, and an officer with Boardman Community Baseball.