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Judge denies Cleveland police supervisors’ motion to dismiss misdemeanor charges related to deadly 2012 chase

October 1, 2018

Judge denies Cleveland police supervisors’ motion to dismiss misdemeanor charges related to deadly 2012 chase

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio – An East Cleveland judge has denied a request by five Cleveland police supervisors to dismiss misdemeanor charges related to a 2012 chase that ended in a deadly shooting.

Defense attorneys for the five supervisors argued during a July 9 hearing that dereliction-of-duty charges should be dismissed due to a series of procedural issues. They contended the supervisors’ right to speedy trials have been violated; more than five-and-a-half years have passed since the Nov. 29, 2012 chase that ended in the deaths of the unarmed Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.

East Cleveland Judge William L. Dawson noted in a ruling that statutory requirements for speedy trials do not apply because the case was previously appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled last year the trial could be held in East Cleveland.

“The statutory requirements for a speedy trial do not apply to a case following remand after a direct appeal,” Dawson wrote in his ruling.

Defense attorneys intend to appeal the ruling, said attorney Henry Hilow, who represents one of the five police supervisors.

“We respect the authority of the court, but we feel these charges should’ve been dismissed,” Hilow said Monday afternoon.

Supervisors Michael Donegan, of Cleveland; Patricia Coleman, of Brooklyn; Jason Edens, of Avon; Paul Wilson, of Cleveland; and Randolph Dailey, of North Ridgeville are charged with dereliction of duty, a first-degree misdemeanor, in five separate cases in East Cleveland Municipal Court.

The case against them has been languishing in various courts for more than four years, since they were first indicted in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. The case moved to East Cleveland in 2015, after then-Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty’s office dropped charges in common pleas court.

East Cleveland prosecutors filed new charges against the supervisors July 3, 2015.

The move to East Cleveland drew criticism from the supervisors’ attorneys, who accused McGinty of shopping for a more favorable jury pool. They appealed the move to the Ohio Supreme Court, which determined the case could be heard in East Cleveland.

That decision meant Ohio’s speedy trial statute does not apply to the supervisors’ cases, Dawson said in his ruling. Ohio law requires persons charged with first- and second-degree misdemeanors to stand trial within 90 days of an arrest of service of a summons.

East Cleveland Law Director Willa Hemmons had argued in court that she should be given more latitude due to the complex nature of the case. She also argued other issues, including the recall of former East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton, contributed to the delay.

Dawson’s ruling also considered the “reasonableness” of the delay. He determined that the trials could be postponed because the parties involved had discussed possible plea agreements that “even became subject of public and media scrutiny,” he wrote in his ruling.

Defense attorneys for the supervisors objected to those plea negotiations, criticizing East Cleveland Law Director Willa Hemmons’ offer to drop the charges if each supervisor paid $5,000 in restitution to the city of East Cleveland.

Two of those defense attorneys -- Henry Hilow, who represents Dailey, and Kevin Spellacy, who represents Coleman -- sent letters to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office and other authorities to ask them to review the matter “for any potential criminal conduct and/or prosecutorial misconduct.”

Hemmons said previously that none of those agencies have contacted her about the letter.

The five supervisors were among nearly 100 police officers who participated in the 2012 chase, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office said. None of the five supervisors fired their guns.

Thirteen officers fired shots at the end of the chase, but Michael Brelo was the only one to be charged. He was acquitted in May 2015 of voluntary manslaughter.

The five supervisors were called to testify during Brelo’s trial, but they invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

To comment on this story, visit Monday’s crime and courts comments page.

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