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Whiskey bottle plea deal garners attention

Alex Green • May 19, 2014 at 8:43 PM

Adam Mitchell and Rhonda Taylor do not believe a judge's continuance of the Jeremiah Johnson plea change will be enough to bring about what they want: Justice.

Mitchell was placed in intensive care for three days in February after Jeremiah Johnson, 25, struck him in the head with a whiskey bottle.

Both Mitchell and Taylor, his mother, were in court Monday to express their displeasure with a plea deal offered to Johnson last week by Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan.

They've been livid over it since it gave Johnson the chance to plead guilty to one fourth-degree felony with a maximum prison sentence of 18 months.

Taylor has been most unhappy with the prosecutor's office's unwillingness to hear her side, and with the office's alleged oversight of Johnson's violent history.

"He got out of jail recently for hitting a man in the head with a gun," Taylor said recently.

Ottawa County assistant prosecutor Joe Gerber said the prosecutor's office has in fact consulted with Mitchell, Taylor, and spoken to Port Clinton police Detective Corbin Carpenter over the plea deal.

"They talked with us but only after (the deal was offered)," Taylor said.

"What's the point of that?" Mitchell added.

The two don't exactly view this as being "consulted".

Mulligan's office, including Gerber, refuses to communicate with the Register about this case or a few other high-profile cases.

Gerber again declined comment Monday, when he said he did not appreciate the tone of questions being asked him.

Gerber was asked if he disputes what Mitchell, Taylor and Carpenter are saying, and if he has a duty to communicate with the public since he is a public servant.

He declined to respond.

Among questions asked without a reply: Where is Mark Mulligan?

The county's highest paid employee has not responded to questions about Johnson or McClain Durst, a 25-year-old repeat sex offender who was recently given a misdemeanor charge for his role in an alleged January rape.

Gerber said he is the man to talk to about felony cases from the prosecutor's office, though he declined to talk about Johnson's case.

Detective Carpenter has joined Mitchell and Taylor in their strong opposition of the plea deal for Johnson.

"The judicial system has failed this family," Carpenter said recently. "(Mulligan) didn't consult me, he didn't consult the family."

Carpenter also said Gerber contacted him only after the plea deal was offered.

Ottawa County Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters said he could not speak about this case specifically because it is ongoing, so he spoke in generalities about a judge's power in plea agreements.

"Generally, there are judges who say no (a judge can't stop a plea deal), others say they will," Winters said after the hearing. "I just don't think it's appropriate."

He said the system is designed so that the prosecutor's office is responsible with gathering and studying evidence while determining specific charges, not the judge.

"There is a separation of powers between the executive and judicial branch and I believe this is where those powers separate," Winters said.

Winters instead attempted to open gateways of communication between all parties involved.

"I believe the victim should be heard by the prosecutor and have an opportunity to know why the case is being handled as it is," Winters said.

The plea change was continued to May 28.

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