By Mike DeWine
Ohio Attorney General
Special to the Register
In light of recent coverage, I feel it is important to set the record straight regarding recent investigations conducted by my office in Sandusky County. Baseless accusations have been reported questioning our motives in several cases, including the preposterous claim that the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has been part of a conspiracy to cover up wrongdoing by public officials. Not only are these implications both false and malicious, they clearly do not reflect our record of involvement regarding Craig Burdine, Jacob Limberios, Bryan Jones, and a Sandusky County jail inmate.
My office is currently investigating allegations of wrongdoing regarding the 2007 death of Craig Burdine. In 2013, Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt requested that we investigate Burdine’s death after he was presented with allegations against public officials, determined the matter was never presented to a grand jury, and that he had a conflict of interest in conducting an investigation. As a result, my office, through BCI, has conducted a thorough investigation of this case. Our prosecutors are currently presenting our findings to a Sandusky County grand jury.
Prosecutors have a legal and ethical obligation to refrain from commenting or disclosing the content of what occurs in a grand jury. The Burdine case is no exception. It is before an ongoing grand jury, and there will be an opportunity to review the investigatory record after the judicial process has concluded.
In 2013, Visiting Judge Dale Crawford appointed my office as special prosecutors to investigate the 2012 death of Jacob Limberios, whose family was concerned that his death was incorrectly declared a suicide. Here too, BCI conducted a thorough investigation, and our prosecutors presented the findings of that investigation to a Sandusky County grand jury. The grand jury concluded, contrary to the Coroner’s ruling, that Jacob Limberios’ death was not a suicide, but that he accidentally shot himself. As much as I would like Jacob Limberios’ death certificate changed to reflect the grand jury’s conclusion, we have informed both the Sandusky Register and the Limberios family on separate occasions that I have no authority to do so, either in statute or in our court appointment.
In 2012, Prosecutor Stierwalt requested that my office serve as special prosecutors to review allegations of wrongdoing earlier that year by Sandusky County jail staff against a female inmate. My office was not requested to conduct the initial investigation, which the Fremont Police Department handled. Our special prosecutors reviewed the investigation and made the decision to present this matter to a Sandusky County grand jury. As the grand jury wrote in their public jail inspection report critical of the Sandusky County jail operation, “We do not like what happened at all, but it did not rise to the level of criminal conduct.”
BCI investigated the death of Bryan Jones prior to when I took office as Attorney General. However, after reviewing that investigation, I changed BCI policy to no longer accept cases where local authorities limited the investigative scope. When the requesting agency does not give us their full authority, or does not allow us to investigate everything surrounding a case, we no longer accept those cases.
For both ethical and legal reasons, my office is prohibited from allowing an ongoing criminal investigation to be used as a method by any party to enhance their separate civil litigation. This was an issue my office has had to navigate with each case we have assisted in Sandusky County.
The Sandusky Register has suggested my office should investigate public officials’ handling of cases cited by social media groups, such as matters involving Isabel Cordle, Lee Naus, Christina Fegley, Ricky Vitte, Gregory Montgomery, Mary Eberly, and Marquise Jones. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has no oversight or authority in these cases absent a court order or request from local officials to investigate or prosecute.
My office’s special prosecutors have vigorously investigated more than 60 public corruption cases across Ohio. We have brought the indictments of a Republican state representative, Democratic county officeholders, current and former judges, sheriffs, police officers, attorneys, and the mayor of Ohio’s ninth largest city. Our record of fighting public corruption speaks for itself.
Editor's note — We agree, the record speaks for itself: Two prior investigations by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine presented to grand juries in Sandusky County involving suspected wrongdoing by local law enforcement officials resulted in no indictments. DeWine has been presenting evidence to a third grand jury since May 6 of his investigation into the 2007 death of Craig Burdine at the Sandusky County Jail. Burdine's family has said they fear DeWine is whitewashing the evidence in order to avoid returning criminal indictments against Sandusky County officials.