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Deputy charged with rape accuses Summit County Sheriff’s Office of racial discrimination

August 7, 2018

Deputy charged with rape accuses Summit County Sheriff’s Office of racial discrimination

AKRON, Ohio -- A former Summit County sheriff’s supervisor charged with raping a woman in 2017 has accused the office of racial discrimination for firing him earlier this year after a subsequent investigation into his use of a police database.

Antonio Williamson of Maple Heights is charged with 15 felony counts -- five related to the March 2017 encounter with a woman outside an Akron condominium complex, and 10 counts that accuse him of illegally running his own name through a law enforcement database between January 2014 and March 2017.

Williamson’s lawyers asked Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Jill Lanzinger to dismiss charges related to his use of the database for selective prosecution after the office turned over documents that showed several deputies were caught illegally accessing the database in recent years, but only one other deputy was prosecuted.

Among the officers not charged is the sergeant who investigated Williamson’s use of the database and a deputy who was the subject of multiple sexual harassment allegations, according to the motion.

The only difference between the officers who weren’t charged and Williamson, the motion says, is that Williamson is black, and the others are white.

“Because of his race, Mr. Williamson has been singled out in bad faith for prosecution,” the motion states.

Williamson’s lawyers, Ian Friedman and Brad Wolfe, acknowledged in the filing the gravity of accusing the sheriff’s office of racial bias and said they gave great forethought before raising it.

“Evidence to support our claim comes directly from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office’s own documents,” Friedman said in a statement to cleveland.com. “It speaks for itself.”

Bill Holland, a spokesman for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

The rape charges

Williamson was indicted in July on rape, kidnapping, sexual battery and other charges after a woman said he forced her to perform oral sex on her in a sheriff’s office car while he was working off-duty security at a condominium complex in uniform on March 19, 2017, according to court records.

Williamson denies ever having any sexual contact with the woman, Friedman said.

Akron police detectives interviewed Williamson about the incident on April 12, and he told them that he was an internal affairs investigator for the sheriff’s office, records say. Akron police then told the sheriff’s office. The office  placed Williamson on unpaid administrative leave, and investigators there ran an audit of Williamson’s use of the computer database.

They found that Williamson ran his own name through the program six times dating back to 2013, and a grand jury returned a supplemental indictment in December charging Williamson with six counts of misusing the database.

Those charges triggered disciplinary hearings, in April and the sheriff’s office fired Williamson, citing only the use of the database, according to his lawyers.

The other incidents

Williamson was disciplined once since joining the sheriff’s office in 1999, according to records included in his personnel and disciplinary files. He was given a one-day suspension for failing to follow the office’s policy on senior checks on Aug. 3, 2006.

Williamson’s lawyers subpoenaed records from the sheriff’s office related to every employee accused of misusing the same database.

According to the motion, the documents showed that:

One deputy, who was already the subject of multiple complaints of sexual harassment from coworkers and inmates in the Summit County Jail, searched his ex-girlfriend’s name on the database in 2013. He was allowed to resign, and never faced criminal charges.A sergeant was written up for disrespectful behavior after he cursed at a dispatcher in September 2016 when he called while off-duty and demanded the dispatcher run a license plate through the database.Another deputy was suspended for one day in 2017 after he ran the information of a man who was unexpectedly at one of the deputy’s rental properties.The sergeant who handled the investigation into Williamson’s use of the database was found to have run his own name through the database in July 2017, but the case was never referred for prosecution or internal discipline.

The office did refer one case for prosecution, the record says. A grand jury on May 24 returned a secret indictment charging Sgt. Bradley Tackett with illegally accessing the database 26 times between 2012 and May of 2018, the records say.

Court records show prosecutors requested a secret indictment sheet on May 18.

Williamson’s lawyers say they filed the subpoena seeking the information from the office in April, more than a month before the indictment. That subpoena was rejected by the clerk’s office, they said, and they refiled the subpoena on May 22. 

Friedman and Wolfe accused the sheriff’s office of recognizing a pattern of discrimination and using Tackett to rectify it.

“The indictment of Sgt. Tackett must have been done in order if there was any hope of Mr. Williamson’s case proceeding,” the filing says.

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

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