Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Brown County Five's court appearance doesn't impress prosecutor

A procedural issue settled Monday has further set the stage for a legal - and potentially lengthy - showdown between five current and former Ohio Division of Wildlife officials and the Brown County prosecutor.

The so-called “Brown County Five” defendants appeared Monday before Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Gusweiler

So did an assistant prosecutor for Jessica A. Little, the Brown County prosecutor who called Monday’s conference “a big nothing.”

Appearing in person Monday along with their attorneys were the Wildlife Division’s Human Resource Manager Michele Ward-Tackett, the agency’s District Five (southwest Ohio) Manager Todd Haines, now-retired former Wildlife Division chief David Graham, now-retired former Wildlife Division assistant chief Randy Miller, and now-retired agency former Law Enforcement Executive Administrator Jim Lehman.

Each defendant was indicted nearly two years ago on April 2, 2010 on single counts of obstruction of justice and complicity to obstructing justice.

The five defendants lost a legal round earlier this year before Ohio’s 12th District Court of Appeals. That court ruled in favor of Little.

It was Little who argued that the five are not protected by the so-called “Garrity Rule.” This legal fiat protects certain government employees from testifying on matters if they believe that by doing would jeopardize their jobs.

However, the defendants have filed the required paperwork appealing the Appellate Court’s decision before the Ohio Supreme Court.

But in order to do that the five defendants first had to express personally to Gusweiler that they understood that by taking their case before the state’s highest court they also were agreeing to forsake their right to a speedy trial.

Little said today that Monday’s hearing will only drag out the case for possibly as much as another year.
Maybe longer.

“This (case) will probably be continued into perpetuity until the State Supreme Court rules,” Little said. “I’m very disappointed, though it is a big issue.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

1 comment:

  1. If Garrity does not apply to a public employee, why would anyone in their right mind ever talk to an investigator from the Inspector General's Office? These 5 individuals cooperated with the Inspector General during the investigating of another ODNR employee. None of them had any reason to believe that they would or could be charged with any crimes. If they were the subjects of a criminal investigation they would be provided with a Miranda warning giving them the right to remain silent. That was not the case here because they believed that they were required, as a requirement of their job, to provide information to the Inspector General in the investigation of another ODNR employee. That the investigator concluded that there was collusion and obstruction of justice between these individuals because they did not process the matter criminally is ludicrous and ignorant. The net result will have a chilling effect on the ability of the Inspector General to conduct investigations. I am an attorney, and as this case currently stands, I will never advise any public employee to provide information to the Inspector General in any investigation without the benefit of a Garrity warning.