Father gets subpoena

Prosecutor advises Jess Burdine to ‘tell the grand jurors anything I thought was important’
Register
May 9, 2014

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued at least one subpoena for a witness to testify in front of a grand jury hearing evidence in the 2007 jailhouse death of Craig Burdine.

Jess Burdine, 80, Craig’s father, said he received the notice Friday. 

Jess was ordered to testify Tuesday when the grand jury seated earlier this week reconvenes at the Sandusky County Courthouse, according to the subpoena.

DeWine has been investigating Craig Burdine’s death since August. 

Jess said he called DeWine’s prosecutor on the case — Matt Donahue — after he received the subpoena. 

“He told me I could tell the grand jurors anything I thought was important,” Jess said. 

Donahue did not say what questions he might ask him, he said. DeWine and Donahue have refused to say whether they are seeking any criminal indictments from the grand jury, and they have refused to say whether they have interviewed anyone who was at the jail when Craig died. 

The Burdine family fears DeWine’s office won’t present the grand jury all the evidence, which they say is overwhelming. 

Watch the interview with Jess Burdine and Mike Limberios

— LONG ROAD

In August, Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt asked DeWine to conduct an investigation.

That request came six years after Craig died at the county jail when Fremont police officers and county guards dragged him from a police cruiser and into the facility. Craig was already suffering massive injuries, including an open wound to his head, a large burn on his back and abrasions and contusions all over his body when police arrested him after a fight in a Fremont neighborhood.

Craig died just minutes after he was taken into the jail. Police allegedly pepper-sprayed him when they arrested him, and he was still handcuffed and shackled when an officer allegedly repeatedly applied a Taser shock to his body inside the jail. Another jail guard used a chokehold on him, according to Burdine’s family, which caused his death.

The Burdines hired Dr. Michael Baden, who reviewed the autopsy, witness statements, video and other reports and determined Craig was the victim of a homicide inside the jail. DeWine’s investigators never contacted Baden after agreeing to do a criminal investigation seven months ago. 

Read Dr. Baden's deposition

It’s not clear if DeWine’s investigators ever interviewed any of the other witnesses, police officers and guards who were there when Craig died. 

Jess said he fears DeWine intends to “whitewash” the evidence the same way Fremont police and the Sandusky County Sheriff’s Office did after his son died.

He and his family fought for more than six years to get local officials to conduct a criminal investigation. Sheriff’s detective Sean O’Connell told Jess immediately after his son died that he would, but O’Connell never returned his phone calls or made any contact with him again after that initial meeting, Jess said.

O’Connell also previously told the Register he did a “thorough investigation,” but he never interviewed any of the police officers, guards or witnesses. Instead he relied on written statements they provided, all of which stated Craig was being combative with them when he was arrested and brought to the jail.

O'Connell can't recall

Surveillance video from the jail and from police cruisers, however, appear to show Craig was barely conscious when he was arrested. Not a single frame from the videos show Craig being combative.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office acknowledged local officials never conducted a real investigation, but it’s not clear if DeWine’s team contacted anyone involved or did anything that might constitute a legitimate criminal investigation.

AVOIDING EVIDENCE

Baden, who has been used in the past by the Attorney General’s office as an expert witness, told the Register in late April that DeWine’s investigators never contacted him about the Burdine case.

A New York medical examiner who has testified in numerous high-profile and celebrity cases in the past, Baden was used by DeWine as an expert witness for his investigation last year into the death of Jacob Limberios. 

At that time, DeWine referred to Baden as a “highly skilled expert” who could not only review medical reports but could also carefully examine witness statements and other documentation and render an extremely precise analysis. 

Baden already had done that for the Burdine family, but it appears DeWine is avoiding his findings in the current investigation. 

Jess said one of DeWine’s investigators told him they found a different expert who was “even better than Baden.”

Sandusky County officials contend Craig’s death was self-inflicted, caused by excited delirium and drug and alcohol intoxication, a condition often used to explain sudden deaths of individuals in police custody but rarely used as a cause for deaths that do not involve police.

Deputy coroner followed the narrative

Baden said the alcohol and drug levels in Craig’s system were far too low to be cited in that manner as a contributing factor.   

DeWine has refused to keep the family informed and would not tell them previously when the next grand jury hearing is scheduled. The Attorney General’s team was greeted by protesters outside the Sandusky County courthouse when the grand jury was convened for one day on May 6.

DeWine’s lead prosecutor, Matt Donahue, presented information to the jurors for a couple of hours, but he did not call any witnesses. He refused to say when the grand jury would reconvene, but Brock Kimmet, the court administrator, said he was told the next hearing will be Tuesday.

Jess said he fears Donahue intends to limit the evidence grand jurors hear in an effort to affirm the official story local officials told after his son died, and not return any criminal indictments.

— STRIKING OUT

If that happens, it will be the third grand jury presentation in Sandusky County by DeWine that results in no criminal indictments.

A 2012 investigation by DeWine into the sexual exploitation of a mentally ill inmate who was denied her medication determined there was no criminal wrongdoing. The woman was kept naked in an observational cell at the Sandusky County jail for hours and encouraged by guards to masturbate and perform other lewd acts.

Grand jury clears Jail guards

The jail guards were fired after the Register first reported the incident, but were later paid $5,000 each not to appeal their terminations and agreeing not to make any disparaging remarks about their former boss, Sheriff Kyle Overmyer. The payoff agreements were arranged by the Sandusky County prosecutor’s office.

A grand jury also found no wrongdoing in 2013 in the sheriff’s botched investigation into the March 2012 death of Jacob Limberios. DeWine determined Jacob Limberios’ death was accidental and that sheriff’s deputies allowed evidence to be destroyed before he took over the probe.

Sandusky County coroner John Wukie refused to correct the death certificate, however, which cites the cause as an accidental suicide. Wukie, who never conducted any sort of investigation, is the only person who has suggested Jacob Limberios’ death was a suicide, and he has had difficulty explaining how a suicide can be accidental.

Wukie says it's confusing

DeWine has refused to ask the judge to order Wukie to change the death certificate. A spokesman for DeWine said there was concern correcting the death certificate might result in a lawsuit.

Mike Limberios, Jacob’s father, said his family has never been interested in money and from the start only wanted the death certificate corrected. The family has spent more than $100,000 seeking a competent investigation and was forced to mortgage their home.

DeWine never finished the job he started, Mike Limberios said, and his family and other families that contend leaders in the Sandusky County law enforcement community are corrupt will support the Burdine family through the grand jury hearings.

He referred to DeWine’s grand jury hearings as a “dog and pony show,” and said his family supports Jess Burdine in his fight for justice.

“He’s a veteran. He’s a father. He deserves an honest, fair, open and transparent look into the death of his son,” Mike Limberios said. “I stand with Jess Burdine.”

The Limberios grand jury also was determined to have been improperly selected — in secret — in violation of state laws governing grand jury selection. DeWine asked visiting Judge Dale Crawford to affirm the grand jury despite the violations. 

Crawford has maintained a secret gag order in the case and has not provided court filings and his rulings regarding the irregularities that occurred. 

*

The Register has reported the difficulties numerous families have experienced with Sandusky County officials and has discussed those concerns with Attorney General DeWine in detail in late March, asking questions families have raised. DeWine said he would review the Ohio Revised Code to determine what the attorney general's office was authorized to consider after reviewing information from the families reported in news articles. DeWine has not followed up or offered further comment. Click on the links below to read more. 

 

Comments

Florence Nightingale

So Mr. Burdine says he was told he can tell the grand jury anything he thinks is important - how does that equate to "Is DeWine's intention to let victim's father twist in the wind in front of grand jury?", which is what you prefaced this with on Twitter?

Babo

It's not out of the realm of possibility that the AG's office would place this older gentleman between a rock and a hard place before the grand jury. They claim he can state whatever he wants to state but the reality is prosecutors control this process and very few people have a lot of experience testifying in a grand jury. Plus, the State may be using this as a means to silence him, claiming he can not speak about grand jury proceedings.

FalconBall

I have been on a Sandusky County Grand Jury and when a witness came in the Prosecutor lead with questions but the witness rarely stopped with simple answers and was never stopped from saying what they wanted even if it was an effort to dismiss the case despite being the victim of a crime. The grand jury discusses and we decided without further involvement of the prosecutor.

I think too many people are getting on here ranting and raving about the grand jury without ever being involved in the process. Many of the comments and even some things I've read in the articles indicate a lack of basic understanding. Time for some of you to quit posting and start studying the basics of our legal system.

Lesson #1: Innocent until proven guilty. This is an American principle fought for by our forefathers that many are willing to give away. The whole court system is based upon this principle but we seem to be in the midst of forcing the court system to honor popular opinion vs. forcing a burden of proof. Many guilty get away because of this but it also protects the innocent (tough balance) but as an American I feel this is the right way.

Einfach genug III

FalconBall, Be very careful, you speak with actual experiance and a common sense approach and that could get you in hot water with Eastergrapple!

Babo

Lesson #1 applies AFTER an indictment or charge. Concerned people are not trying to force the court system to abandon burden of proof once somebody is charged and hauled into court in a criminal proceeding. Rather concerned people are questioning what is the procedure to have people charged in the first place when those people control the process or appear immune from investigation and criminal charges?

Our system is founded upon equal justice under the law and equal protection of the law. The problem for many of us is that the system by which one obtains a charge (either by Criminal Complaint, Indictment or Information) against somebody appears to have been compromised politically and privatized i.e. only certain people are allowed to have other people charged with a crime or expect a thorough and impartial investigation.

You state you were on a Grand Jury and that a witness was allowed to speak rather freely and that the grand jury then discussed the matter.

Questions:

1) Was the subject of the Grand Jury investigation a law enforcement officer or some other politically connected person?

2) Did the prosecutor instruct the Grand jury on what charges it could consider or was the Grand Jury free to pursue other charges and enlarge an investigation if testimony indicated the scope should be broadened?

3) How would a grand jury without legal education know that it had a right to consider charges the prosecutor didn't introduce or pursue other people?

For example, in the Limberios case, undisputed facts (probable cause) indicate evidence was destroyed and that some Law enforcement officers were derelict in the performance of their duties. Those are alleged crimes. If they were ever charged they would then be entitled to the presumption of innocence. However they are not immune by virtue of their status as LEO's from being properly investigated and charged if merited in the first place.

Julie R.

Thank you for putting it in the proper perspective.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks Florence. The Register has reported news articles — dating to 2007 — about the concerns the Burdine family has about what happen to Craig Burdine. The family recently expressed concern again about DeWine's intentions. They say  local officials misled them and put false information in the public record. They documented these concerns in more than 5,500 pages. Given that history it seems understandable there would be a level of distrust. The family is concerned that DeWine does not want to return any criminal indictments. That's his track record. The preface to the Tweet reflects that concern. For Jess Burdine, it's likely the first time he he's been asked by an official to tell his story, in an official setting. Good question.

Florence Nightingale

Thanks Matt. Another question - wasn't DeWine's office responsible for the indictments in the Steubenville rape case and the indictment of the Athens County sheriff? Please correct me if I'm wrong, I'm not trying to be argumentative.

Matt Westerhold

No problem Florence. You're correct. There were four indictments involving school officials in Steubenville after two students were brought to trial. You're also correct about the Athens County sheriff. 

Florence Nightingale

For what it's worth, I guess that's at least one case in which DeWine can't be accused of covering up for law enforcement. Thanks for checking that.

Babo

Actually if you check that case out carefully you will find people were undercharged and there has been enormous "payback" to the private citizens who tried to bring the Steubenville case forward.

For example, the "tough guy" football players were not charged as adults but instead remained in juvenile court where they received very little punishment. Meanwhile the citizen whistleblower is facing federal charges and far more time for trumped up charges for use of the internet to expose the fact that country prosecutor, school officials and other connected people in the county were covering up the sexual assault.

DeWine only acted because of the enormous publicity. Otherwise it would have been business as usual.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks for the observation, Babo. It seems clear in Sandusky County it's business as usual for Attorney General Mike DeWine. When the attorney general's done with the Burdine case, it will be the third grand jury in Sandusky County that Mike DeWine used to affirm the seriously questionable actions of local law enforcement officials.

Local officials and DeWine have not presented any information that disputes the contentions by the Burdine family — and Dr. Michael Baden — that Craig Burdine was the victim of a homicide inside the Sandusky County jail. Rather, it seems, they will simply ignore that information and limit what the grand jury hears.

As a father, Jess Burdine will do his best on Tuesday. As a prosecutor, Matt Donahue will fail to assist him and as attorney general, Mike DeWine will lift the rug and push the broom.

Move along. Nothing to see here. 

Babo

Sadly, I fear your predictions will come to pass. However, if the shortcomings of these grand juries are meticulously documented, much evidence would be generated to support a Federal investigation for criminal civil rights investigations of excessive force and failure to protect as well as a civil investigation of a pattern of lack of redress in Ohio for official misconduct.

Mr. Burdine is an intelligent and disciplined man. He has a unique opportunity to document from the inside any shortcomings in the presentation of the evidence to the grand jury.

Florence Nightingale

What about the Athens County sheriff?

Babo

It looks like the case against him has been blown all of proportion based on politics. It seems the Sheriff Pat Kelly made some enemies with the county prosecutor and the county judge. Kelly claimed he had negative information on both.

So a request was made by the county prosecutor to specifically bring in DeWine. I'm not saying Kelly is a good guy but a Racketeering indictment obtained by DeWine's resident alcoholic senior advisor William Shenck looks like political payback and overkill to me.

My point is DeWine only gets asked in by the county prosecutor when there is political reason to do so and invariably that reason is protecting the status quo.

Florence Nightingale

Thanks, Babo. I guess to my thinking, an indictment is still an indictment. I can see that we are not going to agree about DeWine so I will leave it at that.

Ctwhalers

Glad he is being called. Yes they will lead him in what they want him to say like they did in the limberios case. I hope it helps. Tuesday come to the court house for a rally 8 -9 3- 5. Or if you want you can stay all day with us. We will have signs or you can bring your own. Lets make this a big Tuesday.

Einfach genug III

Yes it is pretty sad that we have all of this going on, 3 males dead, probably safe to say firearms were involved with 2 of them along with alcohol and or illegal drugs and possibly Psychotropic drugs, 2 pertained to threat of violence (with a firearm) and or violent assault on an innocent victim and the other through what appears to be very poor handling of a loaded firearm (poor judgement could be included in this). We shouldn't look at any of the facts in these incidents as most of what is being read is opinion, possibly fueled with emotion by some, vindication or an axe to grind by others (but we won't go there, because that is an instant ban from the forum).
Remember the phrase "Trust, but verify", for your own good do not rely upon one source for information. Haben Sie einen netten Tag!

Julie R.

I feel sorry for Mr. Burdine. 80 years old and he already has spent seven years of his life fighting for what we all know will probably be a losing battle with the dirty corrupt OHIO legal system.

mikeylikesit

amen

Ed Longknocker

The scary thing is people (even officials) don't take this serious because it is so prevalent in Law Enforcement. What I am talking about is the dehumanization of people who are "problematic" to Law Enforcement, or don't fit into the accepted "Citizen Behavior." Sadly, many of these same officers have just a little less contempt for said "good citizens." General citizens have the attitude certain people "deserve" this type of treatment, just as many people find homosexual in prison humorous, as if it was part of the sentence. Whether this attitude is more prevalent in Sandusky County is hard to say, although this correspondent seems to have presented enough evidence to show this is true. I know around that time there was at least one deputy whom was heard bragging there was a "dead spot" in the jail intake cameras which "allowed at least one viscous assault against an arrested individual to happen without consequences." People might take this a little more serious if they took the advice of a former top official of the Ohio Prison System, who several years ago said, "If people realized how easy it is to get into the Ohio Prison system, they would be more concerned with what goes on there." Most officers Sandusky County are good men and women. Very good people, but just a few "bad apples" can destroy all of their good work. When these good people protect the "bad apples" they become just as culpable as those who commit these crimes. I am sure there are officers who know information that is damning. I only pray they have the courage to stand up and be counted. Our county, and our country depend on people willing to "risk all," for good.

Ed Longknocker

My above comment should read: just as many people find homosexual rape...

However, it is a fact that "attitude" flows from the top down. What Sandusky County needs is a good "house cleaning" at the ballot box. We need to throw out this self-serving cabal of politicians and allow good men and women of integrity to enter office. People who have the good of all citizens of Sandusky County in mind. They will remove the "riff-raff." It will eventually happen. It always does. Good always prevails, and people "get their own." However, it is time to move forward, and present to the county, the state, and the world a community which is healthy and attractive for the creation of good jobs, and advancement. The whole county cannot continue to be "held hostage" by a few selfish people.