September 2, 2014

Medina
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Tony Rizzo takes plea deal to reduce domestic violence charges

MEDINA — A Cleveland radio host who lives in Medina entered a plea deal with prosecutors Thursday to drop domestic violence charges levied against him in December.

Tony Rizzo, 52, was convicted of persisting disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, after he pleaded no contest Thursday. Medina Municipal Judge Dale Chase accepted the plea deal Thursday.

Tony Rizzo

Tony Rizzo

Rizzo, of “The Really Big Show” on WKNR-AM, was arrested Dec. 6 at his home, 1052 Sugarhouse Lane. His wife called police from a locked bathroom and said her husband had choked her.

“My husband is hurting me, and he’s very irate and I’m very scared,” she told the dispatcher in a 911 call released by Medina police in December.

In the paperwork for the plea deal, prosecutors said they reviewed 911 tapes and an affidavit from Rizzo’s wife. Assistant City Prosecutor Matt Lanier said Rizzo’s wife told officers a different story when they visited her in her home the day after Rizzo was arrested.

“She was backpedaling and said she didn’t want the charges,” Lanier said.

She also sent a signed and notarized letter to the prosecutor’s office asking that charges against her husband be dropped, Lanier said.

“She said she initiated the argument and struck him with a wine glass,” he said.

Lanier said her change in story affected his ability to prosecute the case successfully and said he was willing to offer a plea deal, but wouldn’t make the offer Rizzo initially asked for.

“He asked for a dismissal, then he asked for a minor misdemeanor with no possibility for jail time,” Lanier said.

Instead, the prosecutor’s office offered a persisting disorderly conduct charge, a fourth-degree misdemeanor that could be punishable by probation, house arrest or up to a month in jail.

“I explained our offer to his wife and Mr. Rizzo’s attorney, and we were prepared — that if they didn’t accept it — to take the case to trial,” he said.

Lanier said they didn’t treat Rizzo any differently than any other person with charges pending in court. He said his office always takes into account the feelings of the victim, ability to prosecute a case, and evidence. Lanier said there were no witnesses to the argument and Rizzo’s wife suffered “very, very minor injuries.”

“This is an offer we would have made to anyone in this court with a similar case,” he said.

Rizzo will be sentenced after the case is reviewed by the probation department. Lanier said it will be up to the judge to decide on whether Rizzo will serve jail time. The judge could also ask for probation counseling or house arrest. Lanier said he expects sentencing to be completed in four to six weeks.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or at lgenson@medina-gazette.com.