Day 2: Witnesses get squeamish

Wrap-up of Tuesday's grand jury hearings in Sandusky County
Melissa Topey
May 14, 2014

Jess Burdine, after close to seven years of an expensive legal battle, had his day before a grand jury telling his son’s story.

Burdine said he cried as he told the jury who his son, Craig Burdine, was growing up.

“I could not help it,” Burdine said.

Craig Burdine, died at the Sandusky County Jail on Aug. 11, 2007.

The Burdine family contends a jail guard caused Craig’s death and the Fremont police and the sheriff’s office conspired to cover it up.

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.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office agreed in August to conduct a criminal investigation into his death.

Local officials never conducted one after Burdine died. Although then-Fremont police detective Sean O’Connell told the Burdine family they would fully investigate, he never again contacted the family or returned their calls, after informing them of Craig’s death. 

Jess Burdine was on the stand for more than three hours Tuesday and told about past assaults by Port Clinton and another at the hands of Oak Harbor police that resulted in a $600,000 jury award against the department.  

Those beatings caused his son to suffer from post traumatic stress, and he had a hard time sleeping.

Burdine told jurors his son’s death was not a tragic accident; it was homicide.

Burdine was in the room by himself without an attorney. 

But about a dozen protesters stood on the courthouse sidewalk to show support for Jess Burdine and his family and other families that have lodged complaints against Sandusky County law enforcement officials.

They also said they are protesting against DeWine, who they fear intends to limit evidence jurors hear to avoid getting criminal indictments. DeWine’s office has responded to the family in a similar fashion as the Fremont police and sheriff’s office did previously, at times ignoring their inquiries and not responding to phone calls.  

One witness, who appeared to be a law enforcement agent, testified before Jess Burdine for about an hour beginning at 9 a.m. 

That man would not say what testimony he provided. He also declined to say who he was when asked by a reporter after he was dismissed from the closed courtroom where the jury is meeting. 

Two agents from the Bureau of Criminal Identification — an arm of the AG’s office — patrolled the courthouse during the hearing but were not called as witnesses.  

A young man was called in to testify just after juror members returned from lunch, but he was there just a couple minutes before his testimony concluded. Burdine said Donahue told him the man was testifying in another case but they slipped him in because he had a driver waiting for him.

There was no other case to be presented before the grand jury on Tuesday, said Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt and administrator Brock Kimmet. DeWine’s lead prosecutor, Matt Donahue, declined to comment when asked about the mystery witness and other questions.

Paul Rogers and Ansencion Anciso, Jr. sat together for hours on the benches in a courthouse hallway outside the prosecutor's office waiting to be called. Both men were in the jail the morning of Aug. 11, 2007, and both men gave depositions previously. They each told a Register reporter they didn’t understand why they were called early and made to wait all afternoon. 

Rogers complained he was missing work, and Anciso said he was missing sleep and had work a 12-hour shift later on Tuesday. 

They also both said they weren’t sure what they were expected to testify about. 

Anciso was deposed in February 2010 and said he saw a corrections officer, fitting the description of Frank Kaiser, place a chokehold on Burdine.

“I do not want to get involved. I do not know anything. I did not see anything,” Anciso said when asked about his statements in the deposition. 

He later testified for about a half-hour. Rogers was in front of grand jurors just a few minutes. 

Both men left the courthouse quickly afterward.

Sheriff Kyle Overmyer also was at the courthouse on the second floor where the grand jury meets and the witnesses wait to be called. He walked to Kimmet’s office. Overmyer went with Kimmet into a vacant room that leads to the courtroom where grand jury is meeting while Burdine was testifying. He left within a minute.

The grand jury is not expected to resume hearings until Thursday. 

DeWine has refused to say whether he intends to seek criminal indictments from the grand jury or say whether Dr. Michael Baden would be called as a witness. 

Baden, a forensic pathologist, examined the autopsy, videos and witness statements and determined broken cartilage in Craig Burdine’s neck from the chokehold and compression on his airway caused him to suffocate.  

Baden told the Register neither DeWine nor his prosecutors or BCI agents contacted him during their nearly seven-month criminal investigation. DeWine has refused to say why Baden was never contacted. 

Jess Burdine said he asked Donahue and the grand jurors to get testimony from Baden and other witnesses. 

*

Live updates, Tuesday, May 13, 2014

4:54 p.m. — The grand jury has left for the day.

4:48 p.m. — The last witness has left the courthouse after just a few minutes in front of the grand jury. 

4:40 p.m. — The first witness from the jail has left the courthouse. A second witness was called in to testify. There are no other witnesses waiting. Both men told the Register prior to testifying they weren'y sure why they were called, saying they had not seen anything despite their earlier court depositions in which both recounted witnessing the events leading up to Burdine's death. 

4:03 p.m. — Jess Burdine is done for  the day. He's testimoney will resume on Thursday at 8:45 a.m. They cut short the Burdine testimony to bring on a witness who was at the jai the morning of Burdine's death.

1:15 p.m. — Grand jury members reconvened. Jess Burdine is back on the witness stand. Before Burdine was called in a young man was called in to provide testimony before the grand jury. It is unknown who that young man is but Donahue told Burdine it related to another case.

12:37 p.m. — The jury broke for lunch. Jess Burdine said he is giving testimony about his son's youth and about prior attacks on his son by law enforcement. He said it  is going well and the jurors are paying attention,

11:10 a.m. —  Donahue has called Jess Burdine to the stand. Burdine told him he had evidence he wanted to bring in. Both men gathered up the bags of documents and a board with autopsy photos of Craig Burdine on one side and photos on the other side of barely seen injuries law enforcement said they sustained from a combative Craig Burdine.

The first witness refused to disclose who he was or what testimony he provided. It appears the man, who was wearing a pin on his lapel, was law enforcement, possible the Bureau of Criminal Identification, a division of the Attorney General's office.

9:50 a.m. — Jess Burdine said he spoke to prosecutor Matt Donahue on Monday and Donahue told him he could ask grand jurors to subpoena Dr. Michael Baden. Jess Burdine did not say why Donahue himself refused to subpoena Baden and other witnesses the family wants called, including witnesses who were inside the jail when Craig Burdine died.

The first witness called has not been identified but has been testifying before the grand jury for more than 90 minutes.  

9:20 a.m. — The first witness has taken the stand. Jess Burdine is sitting in the hall waiting for his turn. He is scheduled to take the stand at 10 a.m.

8:30 a.m. — Grand jurors are arriving at the Sandusky County courthouse. Proceedings are expected to begin at 9 a.m.

Jess Burdine, 80, was subpoened on Friday and is expected to be one of the first witness to testify. The grand jury was seated May 6 and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's lead prosecutor, Matt Donahue, spoke with them for about two hours before ending the first day of hearings.

Donahue didn't give Jess Burdine any information when the two talked last week about what he planned for today's proceedings. 

DeWine has refused to say whether Dr. Michael Baden, who determined Craig Burdine was the victim of a homicide at the Sandusky County jail in August 2007, will be called as a witness. Jess Burdine told the Register one of DeWine's investigators told him they found a better pathologist who would be called instead of Baden. The exchange furthered the familiy's suspicions DeWine plans to limit information the grand jury receives to avoid getting any criminal indictments. 

The Burdine family has been fighting for more than six years to get a criminal investigation of Craig Burdine's death. Baden determined he suffocated due to the fractured cartilage in his neck and compression of his airway. Craig Burdine was handcuffed and shackled when he was repeatedly Tasered shortly after jail guards and Fremont police officers dragged him inside the jail from a police cruiser.

Video show Burdine was barely conscious when he was brought to the jail. Local officials have not presented any information that refutes the family's contentions that a jail guard caused his death. 

Protesters and the Justice for Jake and Ella group plan to monitor the grand jury proceedings from outside the courtroom to determine what other witnesses are brought in to testify. Check back here for updates as they happen. 

Click here for related stories. 

Comments

Gunholdjr

I find it both comical and disturbing that Blue Streaker, who brings up many salient points is bashed by the editor as " not having depth of understanding". I don't know who bluestreaker actually is, but I disagree that journalists necessarily have perspective unavailable to anyone else. Why, just two weeks ago a crack member of the Register's staff identified and named an alleged crime victim in print under the amazing misassumption that she was an attorney, a fact which could have and should have been checked, if not by the journalist than by his editor. When you surround yourself with syncopants who believe that there is a conspiracy behind every telephone pole it is easy to feel that you alone have the inside knowledge. Remember when newspapers reported the news, rather than making it? The fact of the matter with Burdine as with Limberios will be that there is nothing to see here and no one will be convicted. Furthermore, the Register, by publicizing and pandering to the conspiracy theories of bereaved and grieving family members, has only caused more grief and pain for these poor folks in perpetuating the fantasy that the long missing truth is out there, somewhere.... Jake is dead, Burdine is dead. There is no conspiracy. Take a deep breath and move on!

sash

I find myself nodding and shaking my head at the same time. While I disagree with most of the "conspircy" ranters, I do think both the stories and the Grand Jury serve to enlighten Sandusky County voters. Neither of these cases would have been a story if the leadership in LE had properly trained their departments and had clear procedures in place. There simply isn't any good excuse for such sloppy investigations and lazy coroners. Another man's life may have been saved if officers were trained to recognise a medical crisis and made treatment a priority over a booking. Identifying and correcting the shortcomings in the Department may not help the families that have already suffered, but I hope it can keep future families from the same experience.

Lil DAB

In 2010 Sheriff Overmyer claimed his plan was to review staff policies and intall more cameras in jail. This was after an investigation regarding a guard and inmate "affair" resulted in the guard's resignation. Overmyer was quoted as saying Correction Officers already get training on appropriate and inappropriate relationships...YET 2 guards were fired over the sexploitation of a young girl being kept naked in the jail cell and told to perform sex acts on herself; another jail suicide result of hanging, and other cover-ups and/or corrupt investigations.
I certainly hope these SAndusky County Justice groups and their bold rallying get the attention for exactly what you hope:"keep future families from the same experience."

Einfach genug III

Just asking to get banned aren't you Mein Herr!

Babo

@ Gunholdr

Conspiracy isn't a theory, it's a crime. Specifically: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2923.01. It's interesting that LE and prosecutors charge it frequently but when a conspiracy is alleged by citizens about law enforcement or prosecutors the "crime" becomes a "theory".

Also, you raise the story about the victim of Domestic Violence by a law enforcement officer being stalked and harassed by the defendant's attorney at work and gloat over the SR's initial publication error, but express no concern that the attorney was not charged with witness intimidation. In other words, you're using a red herring to distract from the real newsworthy issue to wit: a defense attorney for a police officer was able to stalk and harass a victim in a pending domestic violence case by trying to pressure her into dropping the charges and the county prosecutor who is supposed to represent the victim instead of looking out for the defendant has no problem with the defense attorney's actions.

That's a scenario that is consistent with the alleged official misconduct seen in Sandusky County wherein prosecutors appear to ignore and even assist LEO's or politically connected people avoid detection and or prosecution for alleged crimes i.e. obstruct justice. It's really about two standards of justice, one for us and another for those in the criminal justice or political systems.

IMO, The SR could redeem itself and provide a great public service in the Ottawa County case by questioning Prosecutor Mark Mulligan on his ready willingness to ignore obvious crimes when police, politicians, or attorneys are the suspects while he is so quick to overcharge the rest of us.

Ralph J.

Mulligan is an example of a county prosecutor who practices selective prosecution by ignoring crimes of some connected people and over-charging others. An exposé about Mulligan would be a good source of SR news stories. Recall Mulligan ignoring the thefts of funds by Bratton, members of the county drug task force manufacturing evidence and perjury. How about the theft of $200,000 from that elderly lady? Go for it SR and sell lots of newspapers in Ottawa County.

Ctwhalers

Gunholdjr if it was not for the register these stories would be swept under the rug then another family would have to go through the same thing. What if this happened to your son what would you do? No one said anything about conspiracy theory. It is corruption. Big difference. Plus the familys want these stories told. I have heard from most of them on getting their stories out so this does not happen to another family. Come out to the courthouse and you tell these familys nothing to see here. Just go home. Instead of sitting at home and writing stuff like this you should be out doing something about the corruption. Instead some of you part of the problem cause you will not stand up for justice. You people tired of reading these stories on here should move on find something better to do cause there are alot of us on here that want to keep updated on these stories. Keep up the good work matt and Melissa and the rest of the register staff.

jeffdsp

I have an idea...STOP BREAKING THE LAW!

Einfach genug III

jeffdsp, That is one item that is being ignored in eastergrapples imagined (IMO) expose on Sandusky county and now to include the city of Fremont. Everyone of the major players that he has in his sights is an elected official and I wonder if he is under the impression of social justice or grinding an ax for not being afforded "Special" treatment when stopped for a traffic violation? I just have to wonder? Remember "Trust but verify"! Haben Sie ein nettes Tagesschaf!

Matt Westerhold

You're suggesting these families have filed these complaints and lawsuits because of an axe to grind due to a traffic stop. You break rules, Einfach, and make comments that seem to reveal some shortcomings.

 

Einfach genug III

No, not they.

Commenter

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DGMutley

Redneck? It's clear that you just want it all to go away, Blue.Streaker.

If Babo's comment was so compelling that you pushed the label button why not hit the reply button under Babo's comment and tell us all and Babo why you so disagree.

Florence Nightingale

One thing appears certain - if no indictment is forthcoming, to conspiracy theorists it will automatically be because DeWine is covering up for law enforcement. It couldn't possibly be because the evidence didn't support it! Incidentally, conspiracy theory really is its own separate entity: "a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators" according to Merriam-Webster.

Babo

So how does the definition of conspiracy theory differ from that of the criminal definition of conspiracy? When the government charges a drug dealer with conspiracy to engage in racketeering by obstructing justice and intimidation (underlying acts); are not the government agents involved in prosecuting the case also conspiracy theorists?

Florence Nightingale

Technically, yes, they would be. The conspiracy is the agreement to commit a crime or unlawful act,, the theory is the suspicion that the agreement exists. Once there is enough evidence to prove it, it is no longer a theory. (I am not an attorney, but that's how I interpret it.)If someone could show evidence that the AG has conspired with Sandusky County officials to cover up a crime, then it also would no longer be a theory. And I would be the first to admit I was wrong if that happened.

Julie R.

Conspiracy is a crime?

Geez, I could write a book on the conspiracies that the Eeeerie County courts ~ working in collusion with snake attorneys ~ pulled off over a ten year period. So many I don't know how they ever kept up with them!

Babo

You need to take a look at the indictment filed in Cuyahoga County alleging a conspiracy to fix a case in Mahoning County. It's in the article by Tom Jackson.

Your allegations are not far fetched at all.

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