Friday, June 18, 2010

More hearings in store for indicted Wildlife Division officials

Accompanied by their attorneys and witnesses, five indicted Ohio Division of Wildlfe officials were granted a stay in a hearing regarding a legal point of law.

Brown County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Gusweiler today (Friday, June 18) granted a defense request for the delay of a hearing related to the so-called Garrity Rule. This legal term - broadly - protects a civil servant's Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when making comments during an investigation if that individual feels threatened with job loss for the failure to speak to investigators.

Defense attorneys claim their clients are protected by this rule. Each of the five defendants is charged with two fifth degree felonies: Wildlife Division chief David Graham, assistant Wildlife Division chief Randy Miller, Wildlife Division law enforcement administrator James Lehman, Wildlife District 5 (southwest Ohio) director Todd Haines, and the agency's human resources manager, Michelle Ward-Tackett.

The issue stems from action taken by the officials to a state wildlife officer who allegedly allowed an out-of-state friend to use his home address in order to purchase a hunting license.

The hearing extension was granted in order that the defense could obtain further documentation from the Ohio Inspector General and who conducted the investigation, said Jessica A. Little.

Little is the Brown County prosecutor and who also opposes applying the Garrity Rule to the five top-level Ohio Division of Wildlife officials.

However, said Little, the now-scheduled Aug. 4 hearing will involve addressing only the question of whether the defense's request for additional documentation has been fulfilled.

Little did say that at that time the judge will probably set another court date for the matter involving the Garrity Rule.

"There's not much that I can do and I am very disappointed. I had witnesses who had come from Columbus; blocking the whole day for us," Little said.

Among those called as a witness was Shawn Logan, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Logan was to address the court as a defense witness, Little said.

While pending the conclusion of all legal matters the five defendants remain on paid personal leave.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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