Burns cleared of more-serious charges

PORT CLINTON Former Sandusky police lieutenant Melvin D. Burns Jr. waited eight months for justice.
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

PORT CLINTON

Former Sandusky police lieutenant Melvin D. Burns Jr. waited eight months for justice.

On Friday, after 31/2 hours ofdeliberation by jurors, Ottawa County Municipal Court Judge Frederick C. Hany II read theverdict -- not guilty.

Burns, 46, escaped conviction on charges of persistent disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing.

But jurors were not convinced Burns was entirely innocent the night he was arrested in June 2007 at Put-in-Bay.

They convicted him ofdisorderly conduct, a lesser charge, and Burns was ordered to pay a $150 fine.

"These two charges they got me with, I took this to trial as a (matter of) principle," Burns said moments after hearing the verdict, adding that he wanted to disprove the facts written about the case.

"They just weren't true," he said.

Burns' attorney, Thomas DeBacco, gave his client a pat on the back afterward as the two shook hands. Friends and family were present throughout the two-day trial to support Burns but declined comment.

"Every time a jury reaches a verdict -- America wins," DeBacco said before heading out the door. "We are very happy."

The 19-year police force veteran was arrested near the Beer Barrel Saloon during a visit to Put-in-Bay. Officers said he became upset and refused to comply with orders after his stepson was denied access to the bar. They also claimed Burns showed his Sandusky police ID and tried to pull rank.

Two months later Burns was fired from his job. Sandusky police Chief Kim Nuesse asked two outside agencies to investigate Burns' off-duty conduct. The investigations revealed Burns failed to follow department policy.

Debate on whether Burns' police rank played a role in the incident continued throughout closing arguments Friday morning.

"The defendant lost perspective of the situation and then lost control," said prosecutor Jodie Schumacher. "He was a lieutenant. He was used to being in control."

DeBacco maintained Burns did not act out of line.

"Their feathers were ruffled, and their pride was hurt," DeBacco said of the Put-in-Bay officers who reported the incident.

There were also arguments over property lines and where the arrest took place continued.

"If the trespass occurred at the door (to the bar), why wasn't Mel arrested at the door?" DeBacco said. "He was arrested as he was leaving, getting away."

Schumacher contended Burns' behavior was persistent as he was asked to leave the premises multiple times.

"It wasn't just one request to leave, not two requests to leave. At least three requests for him to leave the property," Schumacher said.

But jurors didn't buy that argument.

Disorderly conduct is a minor misdemeanor, which is not punishable by jail time.