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Sandusky County grand jury makes decision on jail guard scandal

Jessica Cuffman • Mar 16, 2014 at 10:06 AM

But the jury's decision has yet to be filed with the clerk of courts, said William Schenck, special prosecutor from the Ohio Attorney General's Office, which is handling the case.

Three guards — Frank Kaiser, Charles Pump, and Joshua Smith — were accused of sexually exploiting the inmate when she was placed in a cell by herself on suicide watch after returning from a court hearing Jan. 10.

Without access to her medications, the woman stripped out of her medical gown and tried to flush it down the toilet, flooding the area with urine and water, according to investigative reports.

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Instead of giving her another gown and strapping her into a restraint chair, the guards were accused of encouraging her to act out sexually, as well as failing to follow proper jail procedures.

After an investigation by Fremont police and a review by Sandusky County Job and Family Services, Kaiser and Pump were fired and Smith resigned.

Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt handed the case over to the Ohio Attorney General, citing a conflict of interest because Kaiser's father works as as his investigator.

On Sept. 18, Schenck launched grand jury proceedings examining the incident. The four days of proceedings spread out over the course of a month, including testimony from the 21-year-old woman. The hearings ended last week.

Grand jury members voted on criminal charges, but the results of that vote have yet to be submitted to the court.

Under Ohio law, grand jury proceedings are secret unless a criminal indictment is returned against a defendant.

When a grand jury does not indict a defendant — returning a "no bill" — a judge may release information such as the defendant's name and the charges that were considered.

"The grand jury also wants to issue a report regarding this incident," Schenck said.

As such, Schenck is preparing a report, which he'll submit to Sandusky County Common Pleas Court Judge John Dewey, who will then make a decision about whether to release it to the public.

"The members of the grand jury have provided me with what they feel are the talking points," Schenck said. "We'll submit a report with a letter to the judge, with other findings."

Generally, grand juries are not allowed to give reports on their findings, beyond the criminal charges filed against a defendant.

But there may be an exception, under a law that requires grand juries to inspect the conditions in county jails each month, Schenck said.

"The judge will have to determine whether he does, or does not feel, the attachment be released to the general public," he said.

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