Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Temporary suspension of case against one Wildlife official

A legal theory of law has given a temporary reprieve for embattled Ohio Division of Wildlife officer Allan Wright.

The special prosecutor in Wright’s matter has requested voluntary dismissal of his case.

At core issue is an allegation that Wright - state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County - was said to have allowed a South Carolina wildlife officer to use his Ohio address in order to obtain an Ohio hunting license on Nov. 5, 2006.

It is alleged as well that five high-ranking Wildlife Division officials should have handled the Wright incident differently as a criminal matter and not as an administrative matter that resulted in a verbal reprimand for Wright.

Special prosecutor David Kelley - also Adams County’s assistant prosecutor - presented to the court on Tuesday a terse, two-sentence statement that reads: “Now comes the State of Ohio, and hereby respectfully enters a Nolle Prosequi in the above matter. The Special Prosecutor intends to conduct an independent investigation and presentation to the Brown County Grand Jury.”

Nolle Prosequi is a legal term that simply means “please do not prosecute.”

Brown County prosecutor Jessica A. Little had requested that Brown County Court Judge Scott Gusweiler appoint Kelley as a special prosecutor just for the Wright matter.

The object was to segregate Wright’s case from those of his superiors, said Little who is handling the other five cases.

All six defendants were investigated by an attorney with the Ohio Inspector General’s office.

Little said also the Ohio Inspector General did not have the authority during the interview portion of his investigation to say to Wright “Hey, tell me or you’re fired.”

Thus, Wright enjoyed a greater degree of legal protection. This is due to the legal concept of what’s called Garrity rights, Garrity rule or Garrity warning that protects - broadly - a civil servant’s Fifth Amendment rights against self incrimination when making comments during an investigation if that individual feels threatened with job loss if he doesn’t speak.

“(But) the potential is not there for the others, but it is potentially there for Wright,” Little said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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