2012 CP G & P(D) Digital Dossier: McGinty, Timothy

2012 Digital Dossier: McGinty, Timothy

Unless stated otherwise, all information is from the candidate’s campaign web site: www.mcgintyforprosecutor.com

I. Personal Information

Name: Timothy J. McGinty

Date of Birth and Age on Election Day: 60

Political Party Affiliation: Democrat

Home Address: Cleveland

Spouse/Significant Other: Ellen Sullivan

Children: Patrick and Kathleen

Social/Civic/Club Affiliations:

Chairman of the “Cleveland-West Park Police and Firefighter Memorial Walkway” and monument on Rocky River Dr. Honors the heroes who gave their lives in the line of duty (2000-2003)

Western Reserve Fire Museum and Education Center, Board of Trustees (2009-present)

St. Edward High School, Board of Trustees (1995-present)

Began the Justice System Reform program in 2005 with JMI best practices study

Served since 1993 on Ohio Supreme Court, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas and Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association committees

Championed legislation in Ohio that significantly raised the mandatory prison sentences for felons involved in dangerous car chases in order to deter future car chases and save lives

Formed the Balanced Judiciary Project which created opportunities for minorities to run for judicial office (1998-2000)

Leadership Cleveland Class of 2002

1989 FBI National Law Institute For Prosecutors, FBI Academy, Quantico, Virginia

1987 FBI Financial Crime Investigations

1998 U.S. State Dept. American Constitutional Law instructor, Zimbabwe, Africa

Law and Economic Institute courses at University of Kansas, Northwestern University, Chapman University, and the Brookings Institute

Lectured at Law Schools including Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and CWRU

Co-chair of Cleveland Police ID Task Force (2003)

Active moot court judge and instructor (1993-2010)

II. Educational History

St. Edward High School (1969)

Heidelberg University (1972, B.A. Political Science and History)

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law (1981, Juris Doctor)

University of Nevada, Reno (2000, Masters, Judicial Studies)

Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government
Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government (2001)

National Judicial College, Certificate in Judicial Development (1993-2003)

(http://www.mcgintyforprosecutor.com/education.php)

III. Professional Background

Date first admitted to bar: November 6, 1981 (Ohio) (http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/AttySvcs/AttyReg/Public_AttorneyDetails.asp?ID=0024626)

Disciplinary history: None (http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/AttySvcs/AttyReg/Public_AttorneyDetails.asp?ID=0024626)

Legal Experience:

1993-2010 Judge, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas

1982-92 Assistant County Prosecutor

Other Employment History:

1973-81 Probation Officer

IV. Criminal Record and Civil Court Involvement

Criminal Record: See questionnaire response below regarding drunk driving conviction.

Civil Litigation: No personal litigation found.

Bankruptcies: None found.

Ethical Issues:

            The Citizens League has found the following cases where a defendant accused Mr. McGinty of misconduct during his tenure as an Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor.  Copies of these cases are available upon request.

  1. In State of Ohio v. Canitia, No. 62492/62639, 1993 Ohio App. LEXIS 3119, at *22 (Ohio App. 8 Dist. June 17, 1993), the defendant contended that Mr. McGinty’s use of “past acts” character evidence to prove violent tendencies constituted misconduct.  The majority of the judges on the Eighth District’s panel disagreed.  One judge, in a concurring opinion, agreed with the defendant, but stated that any such misconduct was not prejudicial.
  2. In State of Ohio v. Glover, No. 55880, 1190 Ohio App. LEXIS 5465 (Ohio App. 8 Dist., Dec. 13, 1990), the defendant contended that Mr. McGinty engaged in misconduct by improperly questioning a police officer.  The Eighth District indicated that the comments were borderline, but that if they were improper, they were not prejudicial.
  3. In State of Ohio v. Marbury, No. 52848, 1987 Ohio App. LEXIS 9366, at *21, *22 (Ohio App. 8 Dist. Oct. 29 1987), the defendant alleged that Mr. McGinty engaged in misconduct both before and during trial.  The defendant alleged that before trial Mr. McGinty impermissibly pursued a charge of impersonating a police officer in bad faith in order to make charges of obstruction easier, and that he supplied false information to the probation department for use in a presentencing report.  The defendant alleged that during trial Mr. McGinty impermissibly commented on defendant’s post-arrest silence, presented irrelevant and inflammatory evidence, and used inflammatory and prejudicial language in closing argument.  The Eighth District stated that the pre-trial conduct was likely improper and subject to disciplinary action from the Supreme Court, and that the comments during closing argument were improper.  The Court concluded, however, that the misconduct did not result in an unfair trial.
  4. In State of Ohio v. Acks, No. 50346, 1986 Ohio App. LEXIS 7013, at *5, *6,  (Ohio App. 8 Dist. June 5, 1986), the defendant contended that Mr. McGinty engaged in misconduct by commenting on the credibility of a witness and impermissibly referring to evidence that the trial court had excluded.  The Eighth District determined that the comment about credibility was improper but an instruction from the court mitigated any prejudice.  The court also determined that the reference to excluded evidence did not result in an unfair trial.  In a dissenting opinion, one judge stated that the trial was in fact unfair as a result of misconduct.
  5. In State of Ohio v. Peters, 2007 Ohio 1285; 2007 Ohio App. LEXIS 1181(Ohio App. 8th Dist., May 22, 2007), the defendant contended that Mr. McGinty engaged in misconduct by failing to disclose evidence.  The appellate court found that the defense knew of the evidence before trial. See also State of Ohio v. Peters (June 7, 1990), Cuyahoga App. No. 57063, 1990 Ohio App. LEXIS 2274; State of Ohio v. Peters (July 15, 1993), Cuyahoga App. No. 63169, 1993 Ohio App. LEXIS 3512.
  6. In State of Ohio v. Martin, No. 58648, 1990 Ohio App. LEXIS 5389, at *9 (Ohio App. 8 Dist. Dec. 6, 1990) the defendant alleged that Mr. McGinty offered improper evidence of character and engaged in improper cross-examination by asking questions without a good faith basis to do so.  The court stated that the prosecutor’s comments where he referred to the defendant as "mealy mouthed", "disturbed", and "manipulative" and “where ‘the prosecutor drew an analogy by comparing [a witness who testified against the defendant] to Jessie Owens standing up to the racism of the ‘fuhrer’ in Nazi, Germany,” were improper.  Even so, the court determined that the conduct did not result in an unfair trial.  In a concurring opinion, Judge Corrigan stated that comments “made to inflame the passions of the jury and improperly impugn a defendant's character, as made during the course of the proceedings below, could lead to our reversal of criminal convictions supported by less substantial evidence.” Judge Corrigan goes on to state that such tactics “constitute a disservice to the office and the citizens that the prosecutor represents.”  Martin filed a subsequent appeal in federal court, and there the court agreed that Mr. McGinty had engaged in misconduct and that the misconduct deprived the defendant of a fair trial.  In particular, the court stated that “egregious prosecutorial misconduct of this kind rises to the level of a constitutional deprivation, denying the defendant a fundamentally fair trial. Accordingly, Martin is entitled to a new trial on all charges.” Martin v. Parker, 11 F.3d 613, 617 (6th Cir. Ohio 1993)
  7. In State of Ohio v. Green, 67 Ohio App. 3d 72, 80 (Ohio Ct. App., Cuyahoga County 1990), defendant Anthony Michael Green accused Mr. McGinty of engaging in misconduct by making derogatory comments about the defendant and by commenting on the defendant’s failure to provide witnesses to back up his alibi.  The Eighth District held that the failure to object to the misconduct waived any error and that the trial was not unfair.  Mr. Green was eventually freed because, with the help of the Innocence Project, it was determined from DNA evidence (through processes not available at the time of the original conviction) that someone else committed the crime.  That person later came forward and confessed. http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/Anthony_Michael_Green.php

V. Campaign Information

Campaign Address:

Campaign Officers/Participants:

Prior Campaigns:

Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas: 1992, 1998, 2004, 2010

Prior Elected Offices: Judge, Court of Common Pleas, from 1993 to 2011.

Campaign Endorsements/Affiliations: 

Questionnaire Responses for Timothy J. McGinty

 I.          Integrity

  1. Have you ever held a position, public or private, where you were required to report gifts made to you or expenditures made on your behalf?  If so, when and where?

Yes. From 1993 to 2011,  I served as Common Pleas Court Judge and filed annual financial disclosure statements with the Ohio Ethics Commission.

 

  1. Has a complaint ever been filed against you, or any campaign committee acting on your behalf, in the Ohio Elections Commission, or Federal Elections Commission?

No.

 

  1. What is the current balance in your campaign account? How much have you spent on your campaign?  Please identify the five individuals who have contributed the most to your campaign.

Current balance is $81,000.  Spending to date is$40,000

Top five contributors: B. Kanner, S. Miller, J.F. McCaffrey, T. Misny, J.P. McGinty

 

  1. Have charges of professional misconduct been filed against you, including, if you have formerly served as a prosecutor, charges of prosecutorial misconduct?  If so, please explain the relevant circumstances.

No. I have no disciplinary history with the Supreme Court of Ohio or the Disciplinary Counsel.

 

  1. In the last ten years, have you been a party to any civil lawsuit?  If yes, please provide the case name and nature of the suit.

Not personally, but in my capacity as Judge and collectively as a member of the Court of Common Pleas bench, there have been inmate actions that were summarily dismissed in the initial stages. The exact details of these cases can be found on the Common Pleas docket website.

 

  1. Have you ever been convicted of a crime, other than a minor misdemeanor?  If yes, please provide the year and jurisdiction of the conviction.

Yes. 1978 DUI - Lakewood Municipal Court. I do not drink now and have not for over a quarter century.  

II.        Transparency

  1. What steps do you believe can be taken at the county level to make access to public records easier?

Since 1999, I have led efforts to reform the criminal justice system in Cuyahoga County and have supported efforts to provide full disclosure to defense counsel in all criminal cases.

I believe that transparency at all levels of the criminal justice system will improve performance, expose ineptitude, and prevent corruption. We must treat the public at the very least as well as we would if we were a public corporation and the taxpayers were stockholders. The SEC would not let a company get away with the inadequate statistical reporting and record keeping that is common place in the Cuyahoga County’s criminal justice system.

The response given by a chief information officer of a major agency to a computer expert who was trying to help our reform effort by installing some software that would produce meaningful performance data is very helpful in understanding the current CJS attitude, culture and motivation. He declined her offer of free help, blatantly saying, “Why in the world would we want to produce data that would show we were moving slow and could be used against [the agency or elected] politically when someone filed a public records request?”

 

  1. What steps do you believe can be taken to make the operation of the Prosecutor’s office more transparent?

            I believe the citizens of Cuyahoga County have a right to expect that their tax dollars will be expended in an efficient and effective manner. To this end, the County Prosecutor’s office will be transformed using a lean business model that makes maximum use of the dollars budgeted, provides the community with the maximum return for their money, and provides them with regular updates on the performance of the office. To this end I will take four actions immediately upon taking office:

            In addition to the efforts to maintain an open administration as County Prosecutor,   I will have a policy that provides full disclosure of all evidence to defense counsel      which will improve the pace of the pending matter.

  1. Did you support the recent changes to permit more open discovery in criminal cases?  Explain your position.

I support open discovery. The goal of any criminal justice system is for the right person to be charged with the right crime. The goal of my administration as County Prosecutor will be uphold the ethos that justice is more important than convictions. As discussed above, it will also improve the quality and pace of justice.

III.       Efficiency

10.  Did you support Issue 6, the passage of which in 2009 resulted in the present structure of government in Cuyahoga County?  Explain why you held the position that you did at the time.

As a Judge I was not permitted to take a public position on the County Reform question but I voted for it. I believed then as I do now that in order to end the cycle of public corruption, we need to have an open and transparent government that makes responsible use of public tax dollars. This new structure will result in an improved government. The individual district representatives on the County Council will for the first time bring all regions of the County to the table to work together with a common goal. The single executive model will make one person accountable. It will also place that one person in a better position to exercise leadership rather than the old model of three commissioners.

 11.  Do you perceive opportunities for cooperation between local and county prosecutors that may result in greater efficiency and reduced costs?

Yes. In 2004 I persuaded the County Commissioners, over the strenuous objection of the Court Administration, that we needed outside experts to come in and do a best practices review of the criminal justice system in our county. The result was a highly publicized Justice Management Institute (JMI) Report that documented the inefficiencies and injustice that our fragmented, leaderless system produced. The JMI Report made numerous recommendations, including one that recommended the County Prosecutor work with the city prosecutors on creating a 24/7 “central booking” operation in our County.

As County Prosecutor, I will follow through on the JMI recommendations including the creation of a central booking operation in our County. Under the proposed model, the city prosecutor will triage the case with the city police and examine the facts of the case and, the history of the accused (including mental health or other mitigating factors) before making an initial decision on charging the accused. Since the defense counsel will be assigned early in the case, the rights of the accused will be protected throughout the process.

If we had a “central booking” operation in Cuyahoga County, serial killer Anthony Sowell’s reign of terror would have been stopped in 2008 and many lives would have been saved. Sowell was arrested and jailed in a rape case with sufficient evidence that he could have been charged and indicted, but he was released by city prosecutors and understaffed police detectives who never did a record check on him. The record check would have shown that he had a history of similar crimes and that he was a registered sex offender. Instead he was released and six more women were killed.

The County Administration has always taken a hands-off approach to the Court, the County Jail, and the operations of the County Prosecutor’s office. Now that the County Executive controls the Clerk of Courts, hopefully he will have a stake in the effective and efficient administration of the criminal justice system in our County. Half the County’s general revenue fund spending is on criminal justice expenses. A significant amount of taxpayer dollars could be saved if there was an annual audit of revenues and a best practices review. Our criminal justice agencies have little interest in the revenue side of the ledger. As County Prosecutor, I will see that court costs, fines, day fines, bond forfeitures, and assigned attorney fees are tracked and collected and used whenever possible as an alternative sentence to jail time, which will benefit both the offender and society. We could easily improve revenue and offset costs by approximately $10 million annually. That is why I have proposed a Charter Amendment requiring that annual performance audit.

IV.       Competence

12.  Describe your experience working in the criminal justice system.

I have 38 years’ experience in the criminal justice system in Cuyahoga County as a Probation Officer, Assistant County Prosecutor in the Major Trials Division and a Common Pleas Court Judge for the last 19 years.

I started at age 21, right out of college. I knew I wanted a career in public service and wanted to make a difference, an attitude I have to this day.

As an Assistant County Prosecutor for ten years (1982-1992) I tried hundreds of cases and gained valuable experience. I also learned to evaluate cases and conduct investigations on organized crime and public corruption cases.

I ran against an ethically challenged incumbent judge in 1992 on a promise of hard work and a tireless effort to reform the criminal justice system. I took on the worse docket and quickly made it one of the best. I was often the first to arrive and the last to leave the courthouse. I also led the efforts to reform the system to improve the courts performance and the quality of justice we delivered.

When I started, the culture of the criminal justice system was one of secrecy and self-protection. There were no meaningful statistics kept by the staff because no one was interested in tracking data that could prove to be politically embarrassing. When tragedies occurred, everyone pointed the finger at someone else. There were no attempts to fix the system – only denials.

In 1999, a woman was murdered one evening as she worked late in the old Bond Court office tower by a career criminal who should have been in prison. Instead he had been “straight released” from jail by police on other felony arrests with the intention of taking him to the County Grand Jury later when they had more time. “Straight Release” was common practice. Everyone in the system knew it was substandard but the prevailing culture at the time was that anything that happened before the indictment by the Grand Jury and Arraignment in Common Pleas Court was none of our business. I spent the next dozen years working to make it our business.

In 2000, in a Cleveland State Law Review article I authored, “Straight Release: Justice Delayed, Justice Denied.” I challenged all agencies within the criminal justice system to work together to improve performance and to take responsibility to fix a broken system. I earned a Master’s Degree studying open, transparent criminal justice systems across the nation I took numerous trips at my own expense to see, first-hand, how their systems worked. I brought these ideas back with me and slowly, through incremental steps, we have been transforming into a performance-based, transparent, and accountable system.

One example of our progress: It used to take an average of two months to obtain an indictment, go to arraignment, and finally assign counsel. Now it takes less than a week before the accused appears in court and is assigned legal counsel.

There is still a long way to go before we create a culture that strives for continuous improvement. As County Prosecutor I will run a data-driven, performance-based, goal-oriented, accountable public office that will work every day to improve the quality of justice delivered in the community.   

13.  Have you ever run for or held public office? If so, please identify the office and the date of the election. 

Common Pleas Court Judge - Elected in 1992 and reelected three additional times.

14.  Describe your experience in administering or managing an organization, and provide details relating to the size and nature of the organization: 

 15.  Have you participated in preparing a budget for a business, government organization, or non-profit organization?  If so, please generally describe that experience.

Yes. As a Board member of non-profits, I was charged with reviewing and approving budgets and raising funds to cover capital and operating costs.

 16.  Have you dealt with public finance issues (i.e.  predicting tax revenues, bond issuance, etc.) in any prior position?  Describe your experience in public finance. If such experience is limited, please describe related experience.

No. The County Prosecutor’s role in debt issuance and/or refinancing is limited under the current Charter government. The Prosecutor would be limited to suggesting candidates to serve as bond counsel, and/or underwriter’s counsel who would participate in both preparing the Official Statement and, along with the underwriter, placing the debt issue. In this process, I would defer to the County Executive’s choice once I have been assured that the selection process is open and transparent. The County Prosecutor would also be responsible to review and approve the resolution of issuance placed before the County Council. If the debt issue is placed before the voters the County Prosecutor advises on the ballot language subject to the approval of the County Council and the Secretary of State. I am confident that I will be able to perform all the functions required of the County Prosecutor in the issuance of debt.

As far as predicting tax revenue, the County Prosecutor’s role is as a member of the County Budget Commission, which reviews tax budgets submitted by all political subdivisions and issues Certificates of Estimated Resources allowing the local government to appropriate tax dollars. This is largely a staff function performed by the new Chief Financial Officer’s staff, but the County Prosecutor is responsible for reviewing and approving their work.  The County Prosecutor is also important as a check and balance because the other two members are the County Executive and his appointed Fiscal Officer. I am confident I will be able to perform this work.

17.  Have you, or any business in which you held more than a 50% interest, ever filed for bankruptcy.  When, where?

No, I have never been involved in any bankruptcy action involving myself, my family, or any business interest.

18.  In any prior position, have you developed, implemented or been in charge of enforcing an ethics policy for employees? If so, please describe.

My only experience with enforcing ethics policy was filing my own annual disclosure statement. My staff was instructed that they were not to accept any gifts.

As County Prosecutor, I intend to institute the following policies:

19.  Have you ever held a public position where you managed employees who were subject to civil service laws.  When?  Where? No.

I understand that, if I am elected, I will be required to prepare and deliver a classification plan to the State. It would be my intention to provide civil service protection to the maximum number of eligible staff, which is consistent with my goal to eliminate politics from the office.    

20.  Have you ever held a public or private position where you managed employees who were subject to a collective bargaining agreement?  When, Where?

No. The current staff of the County Prosecutor is not covered by a collective bargaining agreement. As Judge, I was called to rule on lawsuits arising from collective bargaining agreements so I am very familiar with the terms and conditions in a standard collective bargaining agreement and would be able to advise the County Executive on any labor issues that may arise concerning his staff.

V.        Policy

21.  What philosophy will you follow in choosing to reach a plea agreement with a criminal defendant rather than proceeding to trial?

My objective will be to achieve a just and fair disposition, keeping in mind the defendant’s rights, the victim, and the safety of community. We will look at the person’s history of violence and the strength of the evidence versus the mitigating circumstances. I want to avoid wasting time that could be more productively spent. So we will plea out the low-level and non-violent cases quickly whenever possible. We will keep the excellent open discovery “on the portal” program in place which has facilitated pleas and cut trials in half.

 As a Judge for 19 years, I consistently kept one of the lowest criminal dockets by analyzing the cases very early in the process with the attorneys. I left the bench last month with the lowest criminal docket and fewest prisoners awaiting trial. As a Judge, I put cases in perspective and suggested an agreed plea and sentence commensurate with the individual facts. These agreements allowed all the parties to participate on achieving a just resolution, and very often they both compromised and agreed because they knew the end result in advance.

 As County Prosecutor, I will use this same philosophy for pleas and then take it even further. In other jurisdictions I have studied, the prosecutor agrees in advance that anyone who enters certain early disposition programs like a drug court will receive probation with certainty. They recognize these cases are going to eventually receive probation anyhow, so why not take the time to review it now and offer the deal right after arrest instead delaying the work six months. This allows the defendant to begin rehabilitation immediately and not waste valuable police, prosecutor, attorney and court time that could be better spent on higher-level and contested cases. So the attorneys and clients are eager to enter these “guaranteed probation” programs where appropriate low-level cases are settled expeditiously without time-wasting gamesmanship.

 My plan is to dispose of the low-level cases expeditiously so that we can focus our limited resources on the habitual and dangerous offenders. They compromise less than 10% of the criminals but are responsible for the majority of the crime. Eighty percent of the felony cases dispose as felony 4’s or lower--all are eligible for probation. So it makes sense to assign attorneys early and give them the opportunity to plea these cases rapidly. Very few of these cases will need to go to the Grand Jury and most will be off the docket, on probation, and in rehabilitation within 30-45 days. It makes sense to grant them now, right after arrest, what they are going to be offered in 90-120 days under the old way of doing things.

 22.  Do you believe, as a matter of policy and without regard to the status of existing law, that civil litigation involving the County is best handled by the office of the prosecutor rather than the office of the law director? Please explain your position.

In the past the County Prosecutors office has been responsible for civil litigation throughout Ohio. The law, as the Attorney General recently opined, is clearly on the prosecutor’s side of this issue. The Legislature is not going to change it for this county, so it is pointless to argue who would be better. However, in practice the complex civil litigation is farmed out to outside legal specialists--and wisely so.  I see no reason why the County Executive and the County Prosecutor cannot work together to make appointments for outside counsel to get the job done right. It should not be about power and control as much as it is about protecting the interests of the citizens. I would more than likely agree with any reasonable request for specific, capable outside counsel, as long as they do not have a conflict of interest.  I am not interested in patronage or any pay-to-play games. The relationship between the County Executive and the County Prosecutor needs to be a partnership and less adversarial. Naturally, the Executive will wish to rely on the Law Director for advice and legal opinions for himself and County Council, and to draft legislation, negotiate their contracts, and resolve labor issues.

23.  Should the County Prosecutor be investigating any unresolved issues relating to public corruption? If so, which open issues?

The events of the past five years demonstrate this county desperately needs to prevent public corruption. The harm done to this county’s reputation by these thieves is immeasurable. If I am elected, the County Prosecutor’s office will have a Public Corruption Unit charged with preventing future abuses of the public trust and vigorously prosecuting future offenders.

With complete transparency in all county business transactions, corruption will have nowhere to hide. We will learn the lessons offered by this corruption fiasco and insure that it does not reoccur. We will begin right at home and make certain there are no conflicts of interest that would compromise our vigilance or ability to investigate. As I have detailed on my web site, politics will be completely de-emphasized so that no one in the public will perceive that there are any political considerations in any of our decision making.

As to the question of any unresolved issues related to the current scandal, I will review any evidence placed before me fairly and objectively and let the chips fall where they may.  

24.  Are there areas where the County Prosecutor can trim its budget while maintaining the office’s ability to pursue its obligations? 

Yes. My goal will be to significantly reduce the cost of operating our entire criminal justice system, including the Prosecutor’s Office, while at the same time making it more efficient and, effective while preserving the rights of the accused. The reform program has us headed in that direction, but we still have a very long way to go.

As I proposed repeatedly in the past, we should analyze all cases on cost per case basis and that would include the County Prosecutor’s Office. The Prosecutor’s Office costs the county taxpayers up to $28 million dollars a year to operate. In addition, the policies and decisions by that office have a ripple effect on the entire criminal justice system.  

Fully implementing the JMI Report reform measures will require less work for the court system. So far, trials have been halved and the number of cases reaching the courts will be reduced further as the cases are disposed earlier in the process. Therefore, we will shift more and more staff to the front end of the process where it is cost effective. Once that happens, less time is spent, the cost per case is reduced, and fewer personnel will be required throughout the system.

The current CJS has been run like an unregulated monopoly without the benefit of corrections that would be made in the free market if this were a business. When we begin collecting meaningful performance measures (e,g, National Center for State Courts CourTools) and comparing our results to other progressive prosecutors’ offices using the same measures, we will know where our performance stands versus the national best practice standards.

25.  If you are elected, what will be your top three goals as Prosecutor?

  1. 1.      Complete the reforms recommended by the JMI experts and make the County Prosecutor’s office and this county’s criminal justice system more efficient and effective while improving the quality of the justice we deliver. This will include a Central Booking system that will prevent errors like the one that resulted in the erroneous early release of serial killer Anthony Sowell. I will focus our limited resources on the habitual and dangerous offenders who commit the majority of the serious crime. When we accomplish all this, crime rates will decline and public confidence will rise.
  2. 2.      Create a Public Corruption Unit that will protect the citizens from future disgrace and harm from those who would violate the public trust.
  3. 3.      Restore public confidence in its criminal justice system by being a transparent, data-driven, performance-measured, accountable, and fair prosecutor, thereby improving this County’s chance for economic recovery. People have a right to feel their families are safe in their homes, schools, and places of employment

In addition to the above, I bring a renewed focus on the foreclosure crisis that is         ravaging neighborhoods throughout our community. Abandoned houses are       not       only a blight on our neighborhoods and diminish the value of other houses, but they             also serve as safe havens for criminal behavior. My agenda for attacking this crisis         includes the following:

          Step up criminal prosecutions of predatory lenders, mortgage brokers and appraisers.

           Identify and pursue absentee, vulture investors who conceal their identity and attempt to “flip” foreclosed properties while ignoring their maintenance and taxes

           Increase utilization of Board of Revision as the forum for tax foreclosure cases

           Increase resources for judicial foreclosures by special project funds generated by court cost charged to lenders who file foreclosure cases

           Increase staff assigned to a Tax Foreclosure Unit to search out stalled foreclosure cases and refile them as tax foreclosure cases to facilitate their transfer to the         County Land Bank 

The Court of Common Pleas had its own front page foreclosure crisis when Mrs. Smith from the Collinwood neighborhood was outraged when she could not get the Court or its Foreclosure Department to do anything about the abandoned home next door to her house. She called numerous times and no one could locate the file or offer any solution for the dilapidated home that was infested with rodents. The home was in foreclosure for over five years and no hearings had been scheduled. No one took responsibility until she called the media and the Ohio Supreme Court.

I decided to use Mrs. Smith’s case as the vehicle to bring transparency and accountability to the foreclosure cases languishing in our Court and demonstrate that it would work with the criminal docket. A Foreclosure Committee was formed and created a set of goals, objectives, and performance measures that could be used to track the performance of each magistrate assigned to the Foreclosure Department. Once their performance was measured and reported the magistrates overall performance improved and those who refused to increase their output left the job. The result of implementing a performance-based system in the Foreclosure Department was striking. Cases that took a couple years were now resolved in six months and the community is the beneficiary.  This should serve as a valuable object lesson for the Court about the potential benefits of extending the same system to the criminal and civil dockets and an issue I will pursue if elected County Prosecutor. 

26.  What are the most important steps that can be taken by the County Prosecutor to prevent the type of corruption that has recently taken place in local, county, and special governments? 

As I stated in my previous answer, the events of the past five years demonstrate that this county desperately needs to prevent public corruption. The harm done to this county’s reputation by these thieves is immeasurable. If I am elected, the County Prosecutor’s office will have a Public Corruption Unit charged with preventing future abuse of the public trust and vigorously prosecuting future offenders.

 With complete transparency in all county business and transactions, corruption will have nowhere to hide. We will learn the lessons offered by this corruption fiasco and ensure that it does not reoccur. We will begin right at home and make certain there are no conflicts of interest that would compromise our vigilance or ability to investigate. As I have detailed on my web-site, politics will be completely de-emphasized so that no one in the public will perceive that there are any political considerations in any of our decision making.

 As to the question of any unresolved issues related to the current scandal, I will review any evidence placed before me fairly and objectively and let the chips fall where they may.  

27.  Do you support the proposed change to state law that would give prosecutors the right to demand a trial by jury?

First of all that legislation is not going anywhere so this is just an academic question. In Federal Courts and in most States, both parties must agree to waive a jury and have the judge also be the trier of fact.  That would be fair in Ohio if both sides were treated equally also but I am not going to push for that change in the law.

If that law were to pass, which is highly unlikely, I would not object to jury waivers as this county is blessed with an honest and capable bench. Unfortunately, that was not always the case. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, we had corrupt judges who were bribed and used bench trials to wrongfully dismiss good cases.

28.  Has the system changed adequately in response to the revelations following the arrest of Anthony Sowell on the issue of responsiveness to allegations of sexual assault?  What more, if anything, should be done?

Sowell was arrested on a rape case with sufficient evidence on December 8, 2008 and should have been prosecuted. Instead the city prosecutor dismissed the case and released him back to the streets without even doing a simple record check. Had the detective or city prosecutor done a record check, they would have seen his record of similar convictions and the fact that he was a registered sex offender. Instead, Sowell was “straight released”. He went out and killed six more innocent women and made Cleveland a national disgrace. Locally, because of the publicity that surrounded this case, women came to realize that substandard police work in rape cases was unfortunately commonplace.

Sadly enough the Sowell case is just one example of a long history of straight releasing criminals from jail after a good arrest, freeing them to harm others. The same thing occurred in 2001 in the infamous Kelly Faust case. The inadequately staffed Sex Crime Unit received two separate rape arrests against Faust. A city prosecutor “straight released” him without doing any record check. He subsequently burglarized a home, raped a juvenile, killed her father who was attempting to rescue her, tied the rape victim to a bed and set the house on fire. To make matters worse, Faust vowed not to be taken alive, was featured on “America’s Most Wanted” show, and endangered everyone, including the police, until captured.

These obvious errors can be prevented when we fully implement the JMI Reports recommendation and establish a Central Booking process as part of our early case management reform. During the hours when arrests actually take place, the crime will be thoroughly reviewed by experienced and capable police supervisors and both city and county prosecutors, and the arrested individual’s criminal background will be examined.  As I stated previously, Sowell should have been charged and indicted in December 2008. The decision and responsibility will not rest on one overburdened or inexperienced detective.

Second, changing the culture of our criminal justice system culture regarding sex crimes must be addressed. The Rape Crisis Center under the outstanding leadership of its President/CEO Megan O’Bryan has made progress in changing attitudes, but there is still a long way to go. Expectations have been raised, but we need to improve the public perception women have toward police and prosecutors and their handling of sex crime victims and the investigations, which will, in turn, encourage victims to come forward and prosecute the perpetrator.

Unfortunately, the majority of sex offenses still go unreported. As a Major Trial Prosecutor I had the honor of meeting many courageous women who came forward and went through a trial simply to prevent other women from being raped by the offender. In 1989, I prosecuted State vs. Ronnie Shelton, aka “The West Park Rapist.” The victims of that serial rapist taught me a valuable lesson about strength and courage that I will never forget. They got together and asked themselves, “Why should we hide from the media cameras?”  Some of the victims, in an unprecedented action, decided to use their names publicly and went on TV to ask other rape victims to come forward. They fought back. They were proud. They sued the defendant and won a judgment in case he ever wrote a book, won the lottery, or inherited money. In an era when rape was hidden, they challenged conventional thinking and carried us forward on their shoulders. We need to keep moving.