State politics is local

Matt Westerhold
Feb 24, 2014


Ohio Gov. John Kasich could get snared in the controversies in Sandusky County this year, as his campaign for re-election heats up. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine already is thick with it.

The evidence should dictate the findings of DeWine's investigation of the death of Craig Burdine at the Sandusky County Jail, allegedly at the hands of a jail guard. DeWine is conducting the first and only official criminal investigation since it occurred in 2007.

He's six months into it, but DeWine hasn't given any hint whether he'll seek grand jury indictments against Sandusky County officials, or anyone, in what must be a coverup of wrongdoing if only because they failed to order a criminal investigation, at all.

Click here to read more about Craig Burdine

That's pretty darn clever — if it weren't so terribly wrong.

The Burdine family, their lawyers and experts, did conduct a criminal investigation, however, and the evidence brought forward makes it clear what happened on Aug. 11, 2007, in the Sandusky County Jail is not what sheriff' deputies and jail guards, and the Fremont Police Department said happened.

The official story just does not hold up.

And if DeWine does decide to impanel a grand jury, he has tremendous hurdles to overcome in making sure it proceeds in a fair and proper way, given the targets of the grand jury likely are the very officials who assemble it.

The Ohio Revised Code, and its Administrative Code governing duties of elected officials and the structure of state government, don't establish any clear path to addressing government corruption. The bureaucracy, by nature, feeds and grows without a moral conscious.

Read more about the grand jury process

In Sandusky County, Burdine's death is tied to the death of Bryan Jones in July 2010; the sexploitation in 2012 of a mentally ill inmate left naked and masturbating in an observational jail cell for the sexual gratification of jail guards; and the botched investigation into the death of Jacob Limberios in 2012.

In every one, information gathered by the victims' families overwhelmingly suggests a pattern of wrongdoing. DeWine — and the AG's Office as an institution — already are ensnared in all of that.

The Burdine investigation is his last chance — in these parts — to show he meant what he said in 2010 during his first campaign for Attorney General that he would be a fighter against government corruption.

Kasich too brings the Republican Party smack up against the malignancies in Sandusky County with his mal-functioning Department of Public Safety and its director John Born.

Born shut down a review of an investigation by the county sheriff of an allegation that an Ohio Patrol sergeant masturbated with a pre-teen boy, but he refuses to say whether the trooper was cleared.

Click here to read more about trooper's sex lesson

Director Born followed the standard and the pattern set by sheriff's detective Sean O'Connell and Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt when they closed out the local investigation Jan. 10 without ever interviewing the Patrol officer.

Stierwalt opted against filing charges, he said, because he might not be able to convict the officer because the officer's defense attorney, who works for Stierwalt, could argue he was watching porn video and masturbating with the boy to teach the child how to masturbate.

It's Kasich's call whether any of that reasoning makes any sense at all.

Stand with it, or stand against it.

Click here for a roundup of news out of Sandusky County


John Harville

...and there's that whole Rex/Rhonda Damchroder thing...


Didn't the Register attend your news conference?

Julie R.

I voted for DeWine for one reason and one reason only ---- he said he was going to put a stop to CORRUPTION. I think just about everybody voted for him for that reason. Let's hope it wasn't just talk.

John Harville

Julie.... so how was that Red Republican coolade?
Betcha voted for Husted and Kasich et al, too.

Dewine - nor his son - ever had a record of being anti-corruption...


And Eric Holder and his band of merry thieves have done such a great job right Johnnie boy?

John Harville

Jackson... since you jumped right into a discussion of OHIO POLITICS to attack the USAG, it seems obvious to agree with the comments on state officials.
Try to stay ON topic or stay OFF here.

Random Thoughts

Mr. Westerhold, in the interests of fairness and accuracy, you previously reported that the State Trooper REFUSED to be interviewed by Detective O'Connell who actually attempted to interview the Trooper about the allegations.  This article clearly implies that the lack of such interview is somehow the fault of the Detective or Prosecutor.  Absent granting someone full immunity, no one can be forced to submit to an interview.  

Matt Westerhold

Thanks Randon Thoughts, but I'm not sure what you might be suggesting is not fair or accurate. John Born, the director of the state Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Patrol, refused to be interviewed and his spokesman refused to say whether the trooper was cleared. It's not clear whether O'Connell ever asked to interview the trooper or whether he refused to be interviewed after he initially told O'Connell he would not talk with him before talking with his attorney. The question has been asked but left unanswered by officials.  

John Harville

Ohio's problem is that we have a 'highay patrol' instead of a state police force. The Patrol are NOT police. That's why a separate BCII was created for investigation and detective work.

Steve P

The Ohio Highway Patrol are certified police officers with the same training as all other police officers with additional training in traffic enforcement. They do have trained investigators who handle crimes on state owned or operated property and organized auto theft. The OSP now run their own crime lab independent of BCI for testing of drugs and evidence. BCI was created to run the state wide crime lab and assist local law enforcement when REQUESTED, not to be a primary agency.

The Big Dog's back

Get your facts straight, no one said primary.

Steve P

"That's why a separate BCII was created for investigation and detective work." Reading comprehension not your strong point piddle, only golf carts.

The Big Dog's back

Where does it say primary?

John Harville

Steve.... compare the OHP and its powers with the State Police in neighboring Michigan and Indiana. But then, don't... the facts would confuse you.
Did you see your own point "They do have trained investigators who handle crimes on STATE OWNED of OPERATED property and organized auto theft."
BCII powers extend - as you rightly pointed out - "to run the state wide crime lab and ASSIST LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT..." - something the OHP cannot do. In Indiana and Michigan the ISP and MSP have full policing and investigative powers THROUGHTOUT their states.

Steve P

I agree OSP has limited legal & physical jurisdiction as does all municipal officers, who are limited by their municipality physical limits. Jurisdiction has nothing to do with who is and who isn't a police officer. Your statement "The Patrol are NOT police." was false, sorry when your own statement not to mention the facts bite you.


The fact that BCI must be requested is the problem in Ohio and why public corruption can flourish. BCI can only investigate when requested by local law enforcement. So there is no state agency with the ability to investigate local and county law enforcement including county prosecutors because the people to be investigated have the ability to obstruct any state investigation.

Now the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission a division of the AG's office is charged with investigating alleged public corruption upon complaint of any citizen. But again that Commission is made up of local and county level law enforcement officers including county prosecutors, who invariably look out for their brothers and sisters.


It'd be nice if you stopped mostly addressing state and national issues, and addressed local ones. One article about Buckeye Cable, which has a township approved monopoly, jacking rates numerous times here and putting in bandwidth caps. This was brought up to the Perkins Trustees. No action. Why? News about our area, please?


Once again, Mr. Westerhold is attacking Law enforcement in Sandusky County! It is almost like an obsession. I feel bad for sandusky county law enforcement no matter what they do there always wrong!

Julie R.

Law enforcement in Sandusky County NEEDS to be attacked and then some. That joke they have for a prosecutor in that county needs to be attacked, too.

John Harville

You're right. " matter what they do they're always wrong..." and in such a big way.


A man outside Detroit was showing his girlfriend how safe his "unloaded" guns were by pointing them at his head and pulling the trigger. Yep.

Clearly accidental, right?

The Oakland County Medical Examiner ruled it suicide.

Sound familiar?

Steve P

NO matter how many times the Register rekindles the same story lines this will not be a major issue on any state elections. Its all about an attempt to increase circulation. When you read the Fremont News Messenger the most read newspaper in the Fremont area these subjects are not a a major issue. Does anyone outside this local area really care about any of this, I doubt it.

John Harville

Steve P... where DO you get your facts? "...the most read newspaper in the Fremont area..."? REALLY? Even their own circulation figures don't bear that out.
Just being present doesn't mean 'being read'. The News Mess is a joke and doesn't cover 'these stories' because of their strong political slant and because they are just a very small speck in the big Gannett family. Most of the reporters are here just long enough to get some experience then move on. The only ones who linger are those who aren't good enough to move to a bigger market.

Steve P

Ask the management of the Register on the retention rate of their younger reporters, seems like a similar situation exists for the Register. Where do I get my facts, unlike you I look at the facts. Clearly a news outlet that doesn't reflect your views are referred to as a joke by you, in that I agree with you.

Matt Westerhold

The Register has a pretty good retention rate, Steve P, with a mix of both young and more seasoned reporteres and editors. The SR has excellent retention. Thanks for asking. 

Steve P

Matt thanks for the reply I once heard your new reporters only stayed an average of 6-8 months, is that correct? There certainly isn't a problem with an employee getting experience and moving on to a larger market or opportunity in any profession. Sometimes compliancy is the problem in any orignization.

Matt Westerhold

It's not correct. The average tenure for the current reporting staff is about three years, but that is skewed low because we've moved freelancers and interns into full-time positions and hired for an additional position late last year. Reporters also some times become editors and the retention at the level is much greater. You're right, though, there's noting wrong with getting some experience and taking good journalism to other communities. The Register's history bears that out.  


Matt, there's an interesting political story in Ottawa County that may provide an opportunity to obtain high level scrutiny of the Vitte case at least.

The current Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters has run in the past as a Member of the Democratic Party. However, Chris Redfern and other County Dems came out very early and endorsed Lorraine Croy the felony assistant prosecutor for Tom Stierwalt in Sandusky County for the Ottawa County judgeship. It is virtually unheard of for a party to endorse a candidate over an incumbent judge from the same party.

Judge Winters declined to run in the Dem primary and has filed to run as an Independent in November against Croy.

I think Ottawa County residents have the right to know Croy's and Judge Winter's position on the Vitte case and child sexual exploitation and apparent double standards for LEO's and public officials in general. They can comment on the case because it isn't in Ottawa County.


Another Sandusky County issue.