Witness calls out DeWine's prosecutor

Donahue was using his cell phone while sister of dead man testified
Melissa Topey
May 28, 2014

Cell phone use during grand jury testimony triggered a state investigation Tuesday when a witness called out Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's lead prosecutor for using his phone during her testimony.  

Laurie Burdine, the sister of Craig Burdine, testified in the morning during the fifth day of grand jury hearings looking into the 2007 death of her brother at the Sandusky County jail. 

She was in the midst of answering a grand juror's question when she noticed prosecutor Matt Donahue appeared to be texting on his phone, she said.

She stopped mid-sentence, but Donahue did not appear to even notice the interruption until she asked him what he was doing texting, she said.

He denied he was texting, and responded that he gets a lot of phone calls, Laurie Burdine said.

The exchange prompted Laurie Burdine to tell Donahue what she overheard earlier while waiting in a courthouse hallway to be called to testify.

She was in a waiting area near Sandusky County sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement who also were there to testify, she said, when she noticed Deputy Eric Arquette looking down at his cell phone and say, “'Jess told the prosecutor this morning.'”

Her father Jess Burdine was on the stand at that moment.

Laurie Burdine said she feared Arquette was being fed information about what her father, Jess, was telling grand jurors. 

Arquette said no comment when asked by a reporter if he was receiving communications about grand jury testimony.

He said no when asked by the reporter if he's received text messages about grand jury testimony.

When asked about the phone and the texts in it, Chief Deputy Bruce Hirt interjected, saying the phone Arquette was using is not a county owned phone. They declined to show the text messages he'd received on the phone. 

But a short time after the exchange with Donahue in front of grand jurors, Laurie Burdine was contacted by agents working for DeWine and she met with them at about 4 p.m. Tuesday. 

She told them what she'd overhead. She also told them about the exchange with Donahue.

They seemed to indicate to her that Arquette had been looking at the Sandusky Register website, which was providing live updates about witnesses who were subpoenaed and called to testify on Tuesday. 

They told her they would continue to review her concern and would look at Donahue's phone to determine whether and who he may have been texting, Laurie Burdine said.

The agents were with Donahue for about 30 minutes after the jurors left for the day.

Get the play-by-play from Day 5 live updates

The agents would not answer questions from a reporter about what the investigation would look into and whether they had looked at the messages or activity of either or both phones.

Donahue refused to answer questions from a reporter about what he was doing with his phone and if it was normal for a prosecutor to be using a cell phone during grand jury testimony.

Some of the witnesses who were subpoenaed for court Tuesday were left still waiting by the end of the day. Others who did testify Tuesday were J. Jackson with the Sandusky County EMS and several law enforcement officers, including retired Sandusky County Sheriff Capt. Carmelle Riffle.

She and another law enforcement officer were brought in to continue testimony while some jury members and witnesses left for lunch.

It is unclear what any of the testimony would be considering the Burdines aren't aware that any of those individuals were at the jail the night Craig Burdine died.

Craig Burdine, 37, died at the Sandusky County Jail on Aug. 11, 2007.

The Burdine family contends jail guards 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 Hiser, who was in the fire pit with Burdine during the fight on Sycamore Street, waited for hours on Tuesday before testifying. He was on the stand for about 30 minutes.

The grand jury hearing is expected to resume Monday.

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Comments

holysee

This worthy of a movie

sandtown born a...

The hits just keep on coming!!! Seriously texting info is totally corrupt but even if he was watching the registers website that's about as unprofessional/disrespectful to the court and said trial from a prosecutor! He should have been unemployed before this story ever ran. Dewine and the following proceedings in Sandusky county are a waste of money and time if all that comes of the proceedings is saying,well we investigated that's that it is what it is learn from the mistakes and move on from here. Oh those mistakes the court/grand jury made, it wouldn't have changed the outcome YADA YADA YADA, DEWINE NEEDS TO BE INVESTIGATED!!!!!!!!

lmalley77

Arquette is the Deputy who was sitting OUTSIDE the courtroom and said "Jess told them this morning." That is what triggered the sister's response when she saw the prosecutor looking as though he was texting on his phone INSIDE the court room. It seems as though the deputy outside of the courtroom, was relaying to the other people outside of the courtroom, that the prosecutor on the inside of the courtroom texted him and said that Jess "told" the Prosecuter something that morning. How on earth could the deputy POSSIBLY justify what he said by saying he was watching the SR live feed??? Did Jess Burdine "ttell " the Prosecuter anything that morning that the SR live broadcasted, and if not, then what the he** is really going on??? This is really just starting to get out of hand. We can't even take cell phones into our court house in Erie county, but state prosecutors can USE theirs during grand jury sessions? Doesn't sit right with me! Who knows what information and to whom he could be giving that information to!! Dewine and his entire staff need investigated along with the investigations they are supposedly performing!

Babo

Agreed. It is outrageous that the section chief for Special prosecutions is using a cell phone in the grand jury room while a witness is testifying. He should not be allowed to even have one in the room.

This conduct is disrespectful to the witness and grand jurors (what could be more important than paying attention to the grand jury process); and it indicates that there are two standards of secrecy in the grand jury process and that the process can thus be obstructed and compromised.

This isn't justice, it's a farce.

Ralph J.

LIKE!

Lil DAB

rottnrog

It's what DeWine does best !!!

JACKEL

He was not there !

Julie R.

"This isn't justice, it's a farce."

You got that right!

mamaC

Sandusky County Courthouse has no metal dector either..

Ralph J.

She stopped mid-sentence, but Donahue did not appear to even notice the interruption until she asked him what he was doing texting, she said. He denied he was texting, and responded that he gets a lot of phone calls, Laurie Burdine said. High praise to Lauri Burdine. Call the Feds now to confiscate Matt Donahue's cell phone now and find out what's on it and to who. My thoughts are COLLUSION. Look that word up.

Ctwhalers

Sad thing is witnesses are not allowed to talk to each other about case but the officers at the end sure were and they where testifying later in the day

Babo

Did just a cursory review of Matt Donahue's credentials to lead a section at the AG's office. He's from Meigs County, population less than 25,000 along the Ohio River. He was an assistant prosecutor there for a less than 10 years.

Nothing in his resume indicates he is qualified to conduct an investigation into law enforcement corruption. In fact it's quite the opposite as he is from an area of the state that is notorious for law enforcement corruption.

ritt

Sad.
Sad. Sad.
Scrap the whole thing now and move the whole thing to another county. The family deserves a fair and honest court process and thus far, anything done in Sandusky County (law enforcement, court systems, lawyers, etc.) has been anything but.

And, only my opinion, Sandusky County might want to do some major house cleaning for oh so many reasons if anything to restore the faith of the community there that's paying their wages.

Using a phone during a court process ~ whether texting, talking or running up data following themselves on the local paper's website ~ is just so very wrong on so many levels. Then again, maybe I'm wrong and court etiquette has changed.

OakieHarbor

Glad to see Laurie take a small bite out of the tail of the AG's office.
This has been a dog and pony show. I can only imagine the "off the record" discussions that NO ONE is to be using cell phones for any reason! To Delete any evidence forthwith!
Where is Brock Kimmet to have these witness segregated and to assure there discussions such as what happened.
You would really think with the liability at hand that someone who has half a brain would have already talked with each of the players and outlined their roles and what they could not do at any cost!
Regardless of what Chief Hirt claims Deputy Arquette was doing, he shared information or talked about the case while awaiting to testify! The Good Ole Boys think they are above the law as they are the enforcers and look at them selves as the final say in many cases. Allows these clowns to continue to dig the hole deeper and deeper.
The AG Donehue's actions gives a real idea how much of a waste of time they deem this is. Now we'll have Dewhiner come in after the fact and profess how diligently they ( ag's office ) worked to find out all the answers and GET JUSTICE!

OakieHarbor

Hopefully the burdine family has thought about making a story board with a timeline Minute by minute events. Then when these ditto copied testimonies are given the Grand Jury would be able at a glance see how they measure up.However if the AG's mouthpiece isn't motivated to put off a sound case and represent the events as they are it does no good as the process is directed by them and it is too easy to take short cuts passing over much of the record.

Lil DAB

And to speculate now, how this has been going on for years and years. How juries have been "played" and manipulated strategically to get the outcomes the prosecutor and law enforcement desires.
That my friends, is NOT Justice.
If I was a juror, I would be extremely insulted, had I been taken advantage of for their corrupt gain; to be mislead and hoodwinked.
You are right re:Donahue's actions giving a "real idea how much of a waste of time" the AG office is regarding this case.

Texting while a witness testifies, picking and choosing witnesses to NOT get an indictment but to manipulate what the jury hears; undermining the credibility of the witnesses they do put on the stand (pro indictment); pre-interviewing prisoners about what they saw and heard and allowing the ones that "didn't see anything..." And how about that video that shows an UNRESPONSIVE Burdine being bullied IN THE JAIL with the witnesses ON THE VIDEO? Did the jurors get to see that BEFORE it was edited?
There's a witness you can call, Donahue! The editor of the video. While you are taking notes here....Subpoena the GPS coordinates of the Taser... and the coroner that ruled Burdine's death a homicide...
oh and be sure to check your text messages....one of your buddies is surely messaging you to straighten your tie. Not the ONLY thing crooked here!

lmalley77

Ok, I may have been half asleep this morning, but I read the whole article, and I could have sworn the article stated that Arquette said, QUOTE, "Jess told them this morning." Did they go in and change it to "Jess told the Prosecutor this morning."?????? I went in and tried to fix it all in my original post, thinking that I messed up, but the more I think about it, I don't think that's what it said when I posted!! WTH? Anybody else read it that can help me figure out if I'm crazy or if SR just screwed something up once again and tried to fix a typo under our noses?

lmalley77

Not that it would seem like that much of a big deal if it was a typo when the article was first published, but if it was first stated as, "Jess told THEM this morning," instead of "Jess told the Prosecutor this morning," it could mean a big difference if an investigation was to come about of the Prosecutor and Arquette's actions. Think about it. IF Arquette and the Prosecutor were texting each other from inside and outside of the courtroom, and someone had asked Arquette a question about something, it would make sense that Arquette would say, "Jess told the Prosecuter this morning," because the Prosecuter may have texted that information to Arquette already. Who knows if they were even texting each other or not. Maybe the Prosecuter wasn't even texting Arquette at all, BUT, as stated, the use of a cell phone during grand jury proceedings is not only disrespectful to the witnesses and the grand jury, but it borders on smelling of a cover up because nobody knows what information and to whom he is texting that information to. Sandusky County is so far gone right now it would take a miracle to get anything close to justice for the families that are fighting them!

tonto

This family is only looking for money. Just give them a couple thousand and they'll shut up. They didn't care about this guy when he was living and now that he's gone all you hear is them boo hooing. Again give them some money and it will save a lot of tax dollars that is being wasted on this court proceeding.

Lil DAB

Quite the callous remark there, tonto. You must know the family so well, that you are showing up at the rallies with a sign "All About the Money" & "We want the Money" or "Pay Me so I'll Leave"???
Didn't think so. The family is looking for JUSTICE.

If you have been following the story, then you know what this family is looking from this court. You would want the same treatment. Yes, some of our tax dollars could have been saved had the investigation and treatment been honest and forthcoming from the beginning. Your frustration is misplaced there too. IMO

OakieHarbor

"Just give them a couple thousand and they'll shut up."
History does repeat it's self, the sheriff Kyle Overmeyer has done this in the past. Just makes you wonder how things can continue to be mismanaged ( oops covered up ).

Lil DAB

Pay-offs. Right-o! The 2 sex scandal deputies each received $5000 to keep their mouths shut and not bad mouth Overmyer's "responsibilities," AND get a good job reference!

"Pump and Kaiser later won $5,000 each in settlement agreements, in which Sheriff Kyle Overmyer promised to provide them neutral job recommendations in the future.

In return, Pump and Kaiser dropped their grievances and agreed not to make disparaging remarks about the sheriff’s office."

http://www.sanduskyregister.com/...

DGMutley

tonto,

Your post is confusing. Do you even know about this case? Jess Burdine is 81, has spent $300k and has tried for the last 7 years to try to get justice for Craig.

Craig was 37 when he died. It was a preventable death: it didn't have to happen.

He was high on alcohol, meth, and had THC in his system; his body was beat-up--he was on the edge. Instead of taking him to the hospital they pepper sprayed him, dragged him into the jail, and tasered him 3 times because he wasn't obeying their commands, taking his breath away forever.

The cops let us down, tonto. It could have been you or one of your loved ones.

OakieHarbor

preventable death
that is the fundamental key here.
Could if handled in a different way Mr Burdine. would have been alive to face the charges he was being arrested for.

DickTracey

This is the equivalent to your doctor texting someone while you are telling him your symptoms!

Would your dentist, put down his tools while he was giving you a filling and text someone?

Can you imagine sitting in a therapy session with your counselor texting the whole time?

This prosecutor should be fired for this, no matter who he was texting or what he said! These people are taking off work to be there, they are all taking this very serious, and this grown educated man is texting?! I can't think of one good reason he would have to even have his phone out during court proceedings.

This is a shameful day for DeWine's team, who just added salt to an open wound.

The message to the family is loud and clear, "We don't care, your sons life is not as important as my text message."

Ctwhalers

Tonto put yourself in the familys shoes. Wouldn't you want justice if that was your son. Plus how do you know they never cared about him when he was alive. I had heard he was even starting to go to church with his sister. So that does not sound like they did not care about him. They probably down there reading the registers post cause sure can not get updates from the fremont messenger. They had to see what the witnesses said so they can make sure their stories are the same. But like I said before witnesses are not allowed to talk about the case to each other but I sat there and watched and listened to the officers do that who were testifying later in the day.

Lil DAB

I can't help but wonder if the News MESS reporter had been AT the court house, would he have got the story more accurately instead of printing what Lisa Hackjob, the attorney general’s communication director in a different part of the state told him to say.....

Ctwhalers

wow what a story even though the news messenger was not even there. Plus the register did see people leaving the courtroom for lunch even though not all the jurors. so if it was not the jurors that left the courtroom who were they then. I was there and I heard the officer down there talking about the case weather was in the register or not.the news-messenger is only reporting what someone told them. Maybe they should be at court room more often and get all the truth.

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