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.
“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