This was the sentence handed down Thursday to former Ottawa County Sheriff Bob Bratton, who appeared for sentencing in federal court in Toledo on theft charges.
U.S. Northern District Court Judge Jack Zouhary sentenced Bratton to one year of probation, as well as ordering him to pay a $1,000 fine and a $100 court fee.
Bratton dodged a prison sentence because he acknowledged his crime and because of the many positive character references sent to prosecutors, Zouhary said.
A special audit released in 2012 found just under $30,000 in expenses from Bratton’s Furtherance of Justice fund, or FOJ fund, did not have documentation such as a receipt. The audit reviewed Bratton’s use of the fund from 2008 and 2011. The fund is derived from local tax revenue and is given to every sheriff and prosecutor statewide, in the amount of half their annual salary.
More than $9,000 of Bratton’s FOJ expenses were deemed personal in nature and not in accordance with the fund’s restricted uses, according to the audit.
Bratton was not quite as emotional Thursday as he was during a plea hearing in January, although he did begin to cry again as he reflected on his actions.
“Just apologize,” Bratton said, when asked if he wanted to say anything prior to his sentence.
Zouhary asked Bratton if he’d learned a lesson.
“It changed my life in many different ways,” Bratton said. “It was not the way I wanted to end my career. It was stupid”
Zouhary asked if anything positive could come of the situation.
“I have to evaluate what I want to do now,” Bratton said. “I will build myself back into something, not law enforcement. It may be a struggle”
Zouhary asked Bratton to think of ways he can give back to the community.
“Perhaps a lesson learned, you could give back in a way you may not have otherwise,” Zouhary said. “You have the potential to give back in a positive way. You’re someone who can learn from a mistake and do something more”
Bratton’s attorney, Richard Kerger, said the former sheriff admitted to a horrible mistake and has paid a substantial price already.
The special audit revealed Bratton used some of the FOJ money to pay for items such as Cedar Point tickets, clothing and prescription medications.
Blaine Kelly, public information officer for the Ohio Auditor’s office, said all FOJ accounts in the state are audited annually. The special audit was launched after Bratton could not account for some expenses.
Kelly could recall one other instance in which an FOJ account was given a special audit: that of former Fairfield County Sheriff Gary DeMastry.
In 2001, a jury convicted DeMastry on a variety of charges — 32 in total, including obstruction of justice and engaging and conspiracy to engage in a pattern of corrupt activity. The judge sentenced DeMastry to six years in prison in 2002.
A 2002 press release from then-visiting Judge Richard Markus said DeMastry committed many more crimes beyond the misuse of funds.
“The defendant solicited, procured and threatened his top officers — three majors and a lieutenant — to also involve themselves in criminal activity to cover his wrongdoing” Markus said at the time.
Bratton was never accused of those types of crimes.
Around the time of Bratton’s indictment, Ottawa County prosecutor Mark Mulligan said he did not believe Bratton engaged in criminal activity because he paid the money back. Mulligan has recently declined to comment on a number of cases in the county, although he recently replied to questions about Bratton via email.
“(My) office was tangentially involved,” Mulligan wrote. “Personnel from the State Auditor’s office decided when and where to seek prosecution of the case”
Normally, a local prosecutor is given a list of possible charges that could be associated with a special audit, Kelly said.
“I can’t say whether or not that occurred in this case” Kelly said.
Kelly said the investigator who provided Mulligan a summary of the special audit has since retired from his position in the auditor’s office. The Register has submitted a public records request for these documents to the state auditor’s office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gene Crawford represented U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach’s office during Thursday’s sentencing. Crawford declined to comment when asked if prosecution of Bratton was the local prosecutor’s responsibility following the special audit.
Crawford said Bratton was not rewarded for any type of cooperation.
The Ohio sheriff’s manual, published by the Ohio Auditor’s office, states a cashbook is to be maintained to record all receipts and expenses relating to the FOJ fund.
Bratton admitted he did not do this.
“It keeps me awake thinking so long, sometimes, I look at the clock and it’s 3 a.m.,” Bratton said. “It’s my own fault, though”