Tuesday, February 1, 2011

UPDATED Another road marker in so-called "Brown County Five" case

The case involving the so-called “Brown County Five” reaches another way point February 17 on its expected long journey through the Ohio court system.

On that date Brown County Prosecutor Jessica A. Little must turn over her prosecution transcripts to Ohio’s 12th District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

The defense then has 21 days to respond to Little’s brief after which the Brown County prosecutor will have an opportunity to respond with a rebuttal of her own, Little said today.

“That’s when I get a parting shot,” she said.

At stake are two felony indictments each against five former or current Ohio Division of Wildlife administrators. Charges against them were filed last spring as they related to discipline involving Allen Wright, state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County.

Wright had allowed a South Carolina wildlife officer to use his address to buy a resident Ohio hunting license.

Subsequently, Brown was given a written reprimand which was expunged one year later.

It has been Little contention that Wright should have been charged criminally instead of administratively. This touched off the filing of charges against the five officials and which included both David Graham and Randy Miller, the-then chief and assistant chief (respectively) of the Wildlife Division. Both of these officials have since retired.

That leaves the agency’s law enforcement administrator, James Lehman, its human resources manager, Michelle Ward-Tackett, and the Wildlife Division’s District Five (southwest Ohio) director, Todd Haines, as the three remaining top officials still with the agency and who are similarly charged.

These five officials won the first court victory when Brown County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Gusweiler ruled in the defendants’ favor regarding a technical point that may or may not have more broad implications.

Little said also that it is her belief it will take months for the appellate court to render a decision.

And regardless of which way the appeals court decides, either the defense or the prosecution will in all probability seek a final resolution before the Ohio Supreme Court, Little says.

“It’s a novel issue,” she said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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