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Judge recuses himself from Catawba break-in case

Alex Green • Feb 6, 2014 at 3:50 PM

Ottawa County Common Pleas Court Judge Bruce Winters recused himself from the case involving Alexander Reitzel, who’s accused of trying to break into State Rep. Chris Redfern’s $840,000 home in Catawba.


Winters declined to offer a reason for stepping away from the case, other than saying the case is pending.


”If I go into (why), I’m afraid it may somehow impact the case with the next judge,” Winters said.


Ottawa County Common Pleas Court records show Winters recused himself because of an unstated conflict of interest.


The Ohio Supreme Court will appoint a visiting judge to hear the case.


The case has been littered with controversy from the start, as Reitzel’s defense attorney, Tom DeBacco, blasted the charges as “politically motivated” because of Redfern’s status.


Reitzel, 19, of Port Clinton, was indicted Dec. 12 on two counts of attempted burglary, five days after he allegedly tried to break into Redfern’s home. 


DeBacco said the timing of the indictment was highly questionable and the felony charges were far too severe.


“In no way did (Reitzel) try to break into Chris Redfern’s house,” DeBacco said previously. “There was a ‘for sale’ sign in the front yard. You figure it out.”

DeBacco was disappointed to hear of Winters’ recusal.


”He’s a fair and honorable judge,” DeBacco said. “I’m sorry to hear (about it).”


DeBacco said he is not completely sure why Winters is recusing himself, although he said he will investigate to see if it involved any foul play from the opposing party.


Ottawa County prosecutor Mark Mulligan was unavailable for comment Wednesday, as his office was closed. 


Mulligan previously called DeBacco’s accusations of political cahoots “unsubstantiated.”


Mulligan and Redfern both said Reitzel was recorded by video surveillance cameras at Redfern’s property. 


Reitzel was on the property for more than an hour, and Redfern was able to watch from Pennsylvania, where he was on vacation, because the surveillance cameras were viewable remotely.


The case is set for a pretrial hearing Thursday. 



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