A tale of two fall guys (Part 1)

Once in a while a political class insider takes a hard fall.   Today we’ll take a close look at fall guy number one, former Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly. Last week visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove sentenced Kelly to 7 years in prison on 18 counts of corrupt activity including twelve counts of “theft-in-office.”  OCGJ has repeatedly exposed another corrupt elected official, former Greene County (Ohio) Treasurer James Schmidt.  There are a few significant differences between the two cases, which we’ll cover later, but two similarities help put things in perspective.

Defendants Kelly and Schmidt were both prosecuted for “theft in office,” a third degree felony. (3)   Second, both cases transpired over a long period of time. Schmidt and Kelly violated the law for years before their cases found their way to their respective county’s Common Pleas Court.  Kelly was in office for over six years before he was finally prosecuted and James Schmidt gouged Greene County taxpayers for more than two decades.  Our judicial system is anything but swift, especially when dealing with political class insiders even when they go rogue as Kelly did.  It’s important to note these similarities for context, but to be sure, the dissimilarities between Schmidt and Kelly tell the real story.

  • First, James Schmidt’s case never came before a jury, and for good reason. Even a corrupt judge and devious prosecutor could not have saved Schmidt from the breadth, depth and longevity of his criminal acts had the case been heard by a jury of Schmidt’s peers.
  • Second, despite being prosecuted for the same crime, Kelly received a 7-year prison sentence where James Schmidt got probation. Schmidt plea bargained his way out of a “theft in office” felony conviction into four misdemeanors.(2)
  • Third, Judge Cosgrove ordered Kelly to pay $6,000 in restitution with the money to be taken from his Ohio Public Employees Retirement System pension.(1) Judge Sumner Walters ordered Schmidt to pay $22,500 for restitution, inarguably a miniscule percentage of the tax dollars Schmidt stole over the two decades he broke the law pursuant to O.R.C. 2921.41.
  • Fourth, former Sherriff Pat Kelly is a Democrat. Not only is James Schmidt a Republican, he acted as Treasurer of the Greene County Republican Central Committee for more than a decade along-side Greene County Prosecutor Steve Haller, who acted as Secretary. It’s important to note that in the next election after Schmidt was sentenced and Haller was charged with prosecutorial malfeasance in Greene County Common Pleas Court case No. 2011CV0114, Haller stepped down as Secretary of the Greene County Republican Executive Committee after he had held that office for more than a decade.
  • Fifth, Mrs. James Schmidt was and still is Haller’s First Assistant Prosecutor. Mrs. Schmidt, whose job it is to know and understand the Ohio Revised Code was not implicated in her husband’s 20-year scandal despite being married to him for the entire duration, nor do we have evidence that she was even asked to testify in the Ohio Ethics Commission investigation.
  • Sixth, where Democrat Pat Kelly was an enemy of the GOP, Schmidt was the “poster-boy-insider” embedded in Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine’s Greene County cabal. DeWine, Schmidt and DeWine’s former law partner, Steve Haller covered each other’s back for more than a quarter century.
  • Seventh, O.R.C. 2921.41(C)(1) forever disqualifies a public official or party official (Schmidt was both) who pleads guilty to theft in office from holding any public office, employment, or position of trust in Ohio for life. Not only did Judge Sumner Walters waive the ban, but Schmidt filed successfully with the Ohio Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel to stay suspension of his law license.

The bottom line…..membership in Mike DeWine’s judicial cartel can surely keep you out of prison no matter your indiscretion, but if you’re an outsider looking in be prepared to be held accountable to the full measure of the law and then some.

Sources:

  1. Associated Press, Former Ohio sheriff sentenced to 7 years for public corruption, Dayton Daily News, March 21, 2015, Page B2.
  2. Paul Collins, Schmidt resigns from position, Times Community Newspapers, December 14, 2010.
  3. O.R.C. 2921.41 Theft in office.

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