Riems pleads 'Not guilty'

PERKINS TWP. In a brief arraignment John R. Riems was brought before the court Wednesday morning --
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

PERKINS TWP.

In a brief arraignment John R. Riems was brought before the court Wednesday morning -- inside Erie County jail.

Security issues were cited as the reason for the off-site arraignment, said Erie County Common Pleas Court magistrate Patrick Quinn, who presided.

Riems, wearing a green jail suit, appeared calm and did not say a word as his attorney, Troy Wisehart, spoke on his behalf and entered a not guilty plea to the charges.

Riems, 49, is charged with one count of gross sexual imposition and three counts each of rape, sexual battery and patient abuse. The victims are two men who resided at Concord Care and Rehabilitation Center, where Riems worked as a nursing supervisor until last month.

One victim is a 55-year-old blind and partially paralyzed man; the other is a man in his 80s, said Kevin Baxter, Erie County prosecutor.

Investigators say more charges against Riems could still come. During questioning Riems recalled abusing nearly 100 patients during his 22-year career, police said.

Riems' bond remains at $500,000, but that could change. Wisehart has filed a motion asking for a bond reduction.

"He has family that want to help him make bond," Wisehart said, adding that being incarcerated in small solitary confinement cell has been "difficult" for his client.

The solitary confinement is for Riems' own safety and the safety of other inmates, jail officials said.

Riems' family was prepared to post his bond Monday just before it was increased fivefold, Wisehart said.

"This is a very respected family in this community," Wisehart said. "They're standing behind John."

Riems has no criminal history and his family, including his parents who have lived in Sandusky more than 50 years, fully support him, according to the motion.

"Further the defendant is married, and his wife and he own a residence within Erie County," the filing states, adding Riems is not a "flight risk."

Meanwhile Wisehart and Baxter will meet on their own to discuss the case, and they will only appear in court if input is needed from a judge, Quinn said.

It's not uncommon to conduct criminal proceedings in that manner if counsel asks to do so, he said.

During the brief hearing Wisehart also asked to reserve his right to oppose the indictment charges if there are any errors.

"I've had very little opportunity to review the indictment," he said. "I have just read it myself."

Baxter was present on behalf of the victims. He remained quiet during the arraignment, saying only that he had no questions about it.

"We're going to review the discovery and see if their case is as strong as they say it is," Wisehart said. "We're going to ... leave no stone unturned."

A jury trial is set for March 31 in Erie County Common Pleas Court.

"It will probably be difficult to get the case ready," Wisehart said of the short time frame.

Three civil lawsuits are also pending against Riems and Concord Care. The suits allege Riems physically and mentally abused residents.

Wisehart said he will not represent Riems in those cases, but a colleague from his law firm may do so.

Both local and corporate Concord Care officials have repeatedly declined to comment.