Schmidt gets a free pass on due process
No one held stronger “insider” credentials than James W. Schmidt, former Greene County Treasurer. Mr. Schmidt held the same County elected office for over 25 years (this may be Ohio’s strongest case ever for term limits). He also served as Greene County Republican Party Treasurer for as long as anyone can remember, and to top it off, Mrs. Schmidt is First Assistant County Prosecutor to Steve Haller who took over for Bill Schenck when he moved along to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Dayton. Next week OCGJ will address Mr. Schenck’s apparent escape from due process, but for now we’ll take the opportunity to reveal what you may come to agree is a case of prosecutorial and judicial malfeasance that rivals the Anuszewski-Zinn Paradox revealed in last week’s post.
In October, 2010, County Prosecutor Haller announced that the Ohio Ethics Commission had been investigating Treasurer Schmidt for “four or five years.” Come on now, only the Keystone Cops or a blind eye could miss this one. Mr. Haller sat next to James Schmidt on the Greene County Republican Executive Committee for more than a decade and Mrs. Schmidt was Haller’s First Assistant Prosecutor. Furthermore, politicians flock together, not to mention accumulate this-for-that special favors. James Schmidt was right there for Haller in 2006 on the Greene County Republican Central Committee when Bill Schenck left as County Prosecutor for a job as Assistant U.S. Attorney. Haller needed the support of the Central Committee to be appointed to temporarily replace Schenck and buy time to put a campaign together for the November election. Haller didn’t really need to raise campaign cash as the Greene County GOP had pretty much locked up elections for the past quarter century or so, but the newly appointed County Prosecutor did what politicians do; he started to raise cash for his first election scheduled for November, 2006, just three months out.
You may find interesting the commonality of Haller’s earliest contributors. From August 3rd, 2006 to October 16, 2006 Haller received contributions from 18 members of his staff including Mrs. James W. Schmidt, Teri Schenck (correct me if OCGJ is wrong, but we assume Ms. Schenck is related to Bill), and Adolfo Tornichio, an Assistant Prosecutor who is now Executive Chair for the Greene County Republican Party.
In an October 21, 2010 article, Haller was quoted, “What the (Ohio Elections Commission) shared with me was enough that I knew that I had to get a special prosecutor.” So after four or five years, Prosecutor Haller is finally engaged in the prosecution of a longtime acquaintance and political ally, but he conveniently found an exit strategy, claiming a conflict of interest. The filing before the Greene County Common Pleas Court states that the appointment of special prosecutors is to avoid a conflict of interest and the appearance of impropriety “because the prosecutor is both acquainted with and statutory counsel to the Treasurer.” However, Haller did not write in his pleading to the Court the most compelling conflict of interest; that he was holding hands with Defendant Schmidt for over a decade on the Greene County Republican Party Executive Committee. In any case, Haller clearly made the right decision by recusing himself from the case, but he owes Greene County citizens an explanation for not recusing himself a year earlier when OCGJ filed suit (Greene County Common Pleas Court Case No. 2009CV0305) against County Commissioners Marilyn Reid and Rick Perales, and Prosecutor Haller for withholding documents requested under Ohio public records release statutes.
To explain, in that lawsuit, Reid, Perales and Haller were named as Defendants, and Reid and Perales had precisely the same relationship with Haller as Defendant Schmidt. Haller was both “acquainted with and statutory counsel” to Reid and Perales who were both County Commissioners, and that’s not to mention his cozy relationship with both politicians on the Greene County Republican Central Committee. Reid was Executive Chair at the time, and both Reid and Perales supported Haller before the Central Committee when it voted to appoint Haller to the Prosecutor vacancy. However, Haller did not recuse himself as he did one year later in the Schmidt case. In fact, he took it one better by acting as defense council for Reid and Perales and himself, despite the unquestionable conflict of interest.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” But of course that doesn’t apply to Prosecutor Haller and some other members of the political class as they know they have an assemblage of judges and politicians including Attorney General Mike DeWine standing between them and accountability to the rule of law.