DeWine dodges tough questions

“We had nothing to do with summoning the grand jury,” DeWine said. “We had nothing to do with whether there was an intent of a violation of the law. What I can tell you is if there is a bias on the grand jury … then that would be something that would be very troubling”
Andy Ouriel
Mar 14, 2014

 

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine dodged difficult questions about the legitimacy of a grand jury that heard evidence late last year in the death of Jacob Limberios.

In short, the grand jury selection process in DeWine’s investigation appears to be flawed, potentially nullifying the entire case.

Sandusky County clerk of courts Tracy Overmyer seemingly neglected to follow state law during the lead up to forming the grand jury.

Listen to the entire interview with Attorney General Mike DeWine HERE

The Ohio Revised Code requires specific documentation of the selection process, which is designed to assure a fair, open and public process.

The clerk’s office, however, cannot show the required steps were taken. Overmyer failed to provide documentation showing:

•The intention to form a grand jury was advertised in a local newspaper.

•Certification by the county’s two-member “jury of commissioners” to the presiding judge and the clerk’s office.

•Certification of the random draw from the annual jury list of the names of prospective jurors.

For a clerk’s office to lawfully form a grand jury, these items are specifically required to be filed and made available to the public.

Overmyer initially said visiting Judge Dale Crawford ordered the documents to be sealed, as part of a secret gag order, but a judge cannot seal public records unrelated to the case he’s presiding over.

Ohio Attorney General spokesman Dan Tierney later confirmed Overmyer had not provided the public records required by the statutes governing jury selection.

DeWine downplayed these concerns when raised on Thursday during a segment of Between the Lines Live, the Register’s public affairs talk program.

“That’s a matter that the court would have to tell us,” DeWine said. “It would not be a matter the attorney general, the state of Ohio nor my staff would determine”

DeWine indicated it was the clerk’s job to assure the grand jury process was properly and lawfully conducted.

“We had nothing to do with summoning the grand jury,” DeWine said. “We had nothing to do with whether there was an intent of a violation of the law. What I can tell you is if there is a bias on the grand jury … then that would be something that would be very troubling”

DeWine said he’s confident any grand jury, no matter who served on it, would have reached a similar conclusion based on evidence his office developed over five months in 2013, when investigating the death of Limberios.

“We can bring 20 grand juries in, and we would have no indication they would have come up with any different result,” DeWine said.

It’s difficult to determine if there were any biases on the grand jury, considering Overmyer wouldn’t provide documents detailing how grand jurors were selected; who selected them; how the summons were delivered to prospective jurors; or what transpired prior to anyone being sworn in as a grand juror.

These safeguards are all designed to ensure a fair and open criminal justice process, said attorney Dan McGookey, who formerly represented the Limberios family in its fight for a competent investigation into Jacob’s shooting death.

“These are fundamental principles of our judicial system,” McGookey said. “If there was no notice of a public meeting, then what good is the requirement under the statute that there be a meeting where the jury is drawn that is open to the public? It effectively eliminates the statute”

In a Dec. 11 memo, DeWine’s assistant prosecutors and investigators were told of at least one potentially biased grand juror before the proceedings concluded in late November.

“[Redacted name of juror] reportedly owns [redacted business], which has [redacted name(s)] associated with the Sandusky County Sheriff’s Office in the past, as well as the [redacted Sandusky County-based office] of some members of the department” according to the memo the Register obtained through a public records request. “She fears [redacted name or juror] would have been nervous about losing the business of the sheriff’s office should the grand jury rule against them”

DeWine said on Thursday his office was still reviewing the issues surrounding the apparent violations of state law, but he made no assurances on the possible outcome of the review.

“I’m not aware of any cases, assuming you are telling me the truth, and I have no reason not to believe it,” DeWine said. “That would be something we can certainly continue to do research”

DeWine said it was not his job to determine if the laws governing a grand jury selection process were violated in this case.

DeWine was appointed to investigate the circumstances surrounding Jacob’s death in mid-2013, after Judge Crawford removed local officials from the investigation, citing potential conflicts in the way it was being conducted.

DeWine’s investigation determined local officials allowed important evidence to be destroyed and they reached a wrong conclusion on how Limberios was killed.

He said Limberios’ death certificate should be changed from suicide to accidental, but Sandusky County coroner John Wukie refused. Wukie also refused to order an autopsy.

When the Limberios investigation by the AG finished Nov. 20, DeWine said all public records related to it would be released.

The actions of Sandusky County officials — including Sheriff Kyle Overmyer, Wukie, Wukie’s attorney Dean Henry and others — were being reviewed by DeWine during his investigation.

Clerk of courts Tracy Overmyer is Sheriff Overmyer’s sister, and she is married to Sandusky County Sheriff’s Capt. Michael Meggitt. The potential conflicts of interest were not addressed by DeWine prior to the selection process or after.

*

Note — This post has been modified to reflect the following correction published in the print edition on March 18, 2014: Ohio Attorney General spokesman Dan Tierney told the Register last week that Sandusky County clerk of courts Tracy Overmyer had not provided public records related to the Limberios grand jury selection process required by the Ohio Revised Code. Tierney did not say Overmyer could not provide the documents. A story on Friday misstated what Tierney told the Register. On Monday, Tierney said Overmyer was still reviewing the public records request from the Register. 

Comments

Babo

DeWine's office may have reviewed the actions of Sandusky County Officials (Overmyer, Wukie, Henry and others; but they or their alleged misconduct were not the targets of the special grand jury.

A grand jury is entitled to examine any criminal conduct that comes before it but the prosecutors running the grand jury have to in most cases point the alleged criminal misconduct out to the grand jury. What DeWine's office likely did very successfully was limit the grand jury to just the consideration of the issue of the cause of death in the Jacob Limerbios case but no consideration of the possible obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence or witness, and or dereliction of duty by the Sheriff and other LEO's.

Sometimes intelligent and independent members of a grand jury are seated and they understand the power they have to investigate crime in a county and they go there independent of the prosecutor. In short they have the power to tell the prosecutor what they wish to inquire into. That's called a runaway grand jury from the perspective of prosecutors, but is really a grand jury doing it civic duty. Thus the selection of citizens for a grand jury that theoretically had the power to investigate the Sheriff and other LEOs in the Limberios case was critical and there would have been plenty of political reasons to ensure the members were not independently minded but disposed to staying o the narrow issue that the powers that be wanted reviewed.

Mr. Westerhold, the issue needs to be reframed to requesting a public corruption investigation of Sandusky County public officials including LE and court officials in the various cases where miscarriages of justice are alleged. Then the question needs to be asked if a state grand jury is up to the task or does this need to be federal?

Thus

John Harville

The Big Red Wall will be erected as soon as a request comes forth for a full investigation. Look how long it took just to get Dewine here. But the Register will have to change course and become totally impartial rather than showing its usual bias.

DGMutley

If I understand correctly, we can change the venue for a trial but we can't change the venue for a grand jury or its selection. Is that right?

Regarding this grand jury in question isn't the solution to simply hold a new grand jury?

Babo

That's correct. A grand jury presides in the county where the alleged criminal activity occurred. However, one could argue that Lucas County also has jurisdiction if the Lucas County Assistant Coroner's conduct comes under review for dereliction of duty or something similar.

The problem in the Limberios case was the issue was narrowed to reviewing his cause of death and not the alleged criminal conduct of the Sheriff, LEO's and others such as the coroner or special prosecutor Dean Henry. They were never targets of the Grand Jury and you can bet the prosecutors from DeWines' office were not about to let the Grand Jury expand it's investigation due to political fall out and friendships.

The Limberios Grand Jury should have been a special grand jury, which was to be separately empaneled from the regular grand juries in the County due to the fact that AG special prosecutors were involved. One only uses special prosecutors if the county prosecutor has a conflict and it would be improper to have the same grand jurors interacting with the county prosecutor and the special prosecutor.

Apparently the proper procedure to seat a special grand jury was not followed. Another problem (not raised) is there was a retired visiting judge involved and he has no authority to empanel a special grand jury or oversee any grand jury as that is the duty of the elected Common Pleas Court Judges of the County.

So now the alleged misconduct/malfeasance has expanded to include court officers such as the clerk and judges who allegedly did not properly seat the special grand jury which should have examined not only the cause of death but the conduct of their fellow county officials in the death investigation.

Also, I am not aware of any law that allows citizens to request a new special grand jury be seated. I suppose they could petition the court for one. But the problem is the people responsible for overseeing the integrity of grand jury proceedings are related or politically connected to the public officials one would expect to be the targets of the Grand Jury investigation.

Now there is an obscure Chapter in Ohio law (Chapter 177) which creates a Commission in DeWine's office which allows for any citizen to file a Complaint alleging public corruption and to request a task force and special prosecutors be assigned to investigate it and prosecute the alleged corrupt activity. Thus, DeWine lied when he claimed there was no way he could investigate alleged corrupt activity in a county unless the Sheriff, prosecutor (the very people who are to be investigated) invite him. The purpose of Chapter 177 was to provide an opportunity for citizens to obtain investigations of alleged public corruption in their county if the sheriff, or prosecutor or other county officials are implicated.

However, if one obtains a 177 Task force and special prosecutor from the AG's office, there is still the opportunity for the grand jury process to be undermined by the county officials. Therefore, one rarely sees state county level public corruption investigations successfully prosecute alleged public corruption.

It's invariably the Feds who have to bring public corruption cases. A federal grand jury would be seated in Toledo and its grand jurors would be from all over the Western Division of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio

DGMutley

Thank you. Grim news!

The AG not being able to hold a special grand jury other than in county where the crimes were committed should be addressed by our legislature in Columbus when the crimes being committed are by the county's officials.

There is a ray of sunshine though if AG DeWine will honor an inquiry through Chapter 177.

holysee

Most intelligent comment posted here EVER. Thank you Babo for intelligent insight that furthered my education.

Truth2u

I agree holysee, Babo's post is quite encouraging and enlightening .

Glad your still investigating this Matt, I do not believe the decision of the Jury, DeWine or anyone else who had any input into that trial.

I think DeWine is a pure politician, why isn't he demanding answers? If he's that sick and can't do his job let him resign! If he agrees with the verdict that's his prerogative, but down right illegal jury selection is a crime which must be answered for.

holysee

Overmeyer overburdens overcolored oversteered overshadows overplotted overpowered overlooking overexposed overextends overfatigue overfavored overarching overstepped overmeyer

ISPSP

Hmmmm.....? Not attacking, just curious.

John Harville

Overmyer (only one 'e') manipulated her way to her present position, being in the right place when her predecessor (Auditor candidate Warren Brown) created the County Administrator position for himself with the County Commissioners). It began in the Overmyer stronghold in Lindsey where she was clerk of council while serving as chief deputy in the County Clerk's office. When she was promoted to Clerk, she had to resign the Lindsey office which was assumed by another OVermyer.
She doesn't have necessary legal background and, unfortunately, doesn't have a strong county attorney to advise her - if she even would ask.

Julie R.

And to think I actually voted for DeWine. What a fool I was. I think I'm going to write him a real good letter. In fact, I think I'll write more than one. He was going to stop all the corruption by these ugly low-life public officials. Yeah, right DeWine.

slightthroat212

Based on the broad statements made by the AG, I have wondered if he was even AWARE of what Mr. Westerhold was even speaking about concerning the grand jury when they talked on the telephone. It did not appear so. In fact, the AG appeared angered and aggitated by the questions asked by Mr. Westerhold, as if he was being blindsided by them. I pictured in my mind a rather angry little man after hanging up asking his aide "what the heck was that all about?" when he got off the phone.

It would seem more possible than anyone now presumes, that the sitting grand jury for the Limberios matter appears that the protocol was NOT followed. "hanky panky" was afoot to make sure the WRONG questions got asked and answered during that time, limited to and including ONLY the ones that were fitting to the good of Sandusky County.

It appears to be that is the way the attorney for Sandusky County wanted it as did the investigators and that is how it happened. They suspected no one to be the wiser and no one would check for the paperwork to be filed. They underestimated the Sandusky Register's need to know.

So along comes the SR digging for papers and what happens but a non-existent grand jury paper necessary for the filing of the jury member summons. No one thought anyone would miss it. No one thought anyone would ask for it. OOPS. Now what happens? It's not there.

They need time to go back and re issue summons that do not exist, they never did. Get signatures and backdate their files. THEN they can give the SR the papers. The judge says the files are sealed....which they are NOT....just a stall.

Once they get this paper tiger under control watch how fast you get the paper handed to you, Mr. Westerhold. None of it will be legal, up to date or correct, but it will suddenly exists.

Corruption always has a trail to it. It just takes longer. And unless there is ONE honest person on that grand jury who cannot stand to be dishonest any longer...you will never know the truth.

John Harville

Why was there a probation officer on the panel and why was she revealing - during the Grand Jury process - that she was on the Grand Jury?

Julie R.

How could this visiting Judge Dale Crawford seal records? For that matter, how are all of these retired visiting judges ~ and even sitting judges ~ getting away with sealing records? That crap goes on all the time in Erie County, too. A good example were the probate estates of Dr. Baxter & his wife. The Probate Court Judge Beverly McGookey recused herself and brought in Kevin Baxter & Co.'s favorite Lorain County retired visiting Judge Joseph Cirigliano to seal all the records in the estates, yet the law says the only records in probate that can be sealed are a decedent's medical records.

Babo

One would file a Complaint in Mandamus with either the Sixth District Court of Appeals or the Ohio Supreme Court to open improperly sealed records.

An heir in the Delores Baxter estate claimed the records were improperly sealed to conceal the Executor's failure to disclose over $2,000,000 in loans from a business entity payable to the estate. If true, the City of Sandusky would have lost significant estate taxes and the executor and individuals who controlled the business entity might have obtained improper windfalls.

Julie R.

I found some "records" sealed in my mother's estate, too --- an estate that there was nothing in because the probate court gave attorneys & the other dirt-bags from Huron two years after her death to get everything that was left from contracts that were criminally changed before her death out of her name before a snake Lorain County attorney filed that forged Will for her Huron attorneys.

The "records" that were sealed were in a large manila envelope that was taped shut and marked CONFIDENTIAL. If the jokes in the probate court didn't think I would open that envelope, they got fooled. Inside were the depositions that all the attorneys ~ including the crook attorney I had ~ tried to hide. Obviously, the probate court didn't know I already had them.