He who has the gold enforces the rules
In OCGJ’s last two posts we dove a little deeper into political class lawbreakers who received nominal sentences inconsistent with their crimes and way less than those dished out to the citizen class disconnected from influence and financial resources. Monte Zinn and Bill Schenck serve as poster boys for the special privileged who have yet to be held accountable to the rule of law. This week we’ll take a closer look at another thief who had his felony crime reduced to a few misdemeanors. Former Greene County Treasurer James Schmidt is in the cross hairs again after being featured in our January 8th post.
Unfortunately when judicial and prosecutorial misconduct are as wide and deep as they are in Greene County it takes more than six or seven hundred words to get the full story. That will be our mission this week before we move along to the flip side that will show how far the political class will stretch due process and the rule of law to serve injustice upon their enemies.
James Schmidt and the Greene County political class could not provide a better example for term limits. We don’t know for sure when Schmidt got crosswise with the law, but until 2010 he had been County Treasurer since 1983. Schmidt rode the coattails of Mike DeWine who over three decades built a formidable political machine in Greene County that served him and others well. As long as you were on the same page as Mike DeWine you could pretty much guarantee success as a Greene County politician.
In December 2010 James Schmidt resigned his position as Greene County Treasurer just before pleading guilty to one count of unlawful interest in a public contract, one count of soliciting improper compensation, one count of improper use of a public office, and one count unauthorized use of property. He expressed remorse for his actions, but we don’t believe it for a minute, and here’s why:
- Schmidt got caught red handed in 2007 after three former employees blew the whistle. He would probably still be bilking Greene County taxpayers if these courageous citizens hadn’t stepped forward.
- After the citizen disclosers, it still took the Greene County political class almost four years to bring the investigation into the light of day, and when they did, Schmidt’s punishment was little more than a slap on the wrist.
- Part of Schmidt’s sentence was a 12-month suspension of his law license, but the Ohio Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Board stayed all 12 months due to phony mitigating circumstances including:
- Schmidt had no prior disciplinary offenses. Of course he didn’t; he was operating outside the law for nearly 20 years before his crimes were reported.
- Timely restitution. Schmidt had been breaking the law for decades, and to add insult to injury, the Ohio Supreme Court commends him for paying restitution in a timely manner.
- Court costs and fines of $38,950. This was undoubtedly a small fraction of what he stole from the taxpayers over the years.
- Good character and reputation in the community built over a quarter century, when all along Schmidt was a scheming, corrupt elected official.
- Viet Nam veteran. Actually Schmidt’s behavior serves as an embarrassment to vets.
- 24 character letters from members of the political class is more of an indictment than mitigation for decades of lying, cheating and stealing.
- Schmidt pled guilty to one count of unlawful interest in a public contract which he had been doing for 20 years under the auspices of Probate Court Judge Robert Hagler who was never prosecuted or disciplined.
- For over ten years County Treasurer Schmidt sat next to County Prosecutor Haller on the Greene County Republican Executive Committee.
- His spouse, Suzanne Schmidt, is Greene County First Assistant Prosecutor. Mrs. Schmidt is one of 18 employees working for Greene County prosecutor Steve Haller who contributed to Haller’s campaign after he was appointed to replace Bill Schenck when Schenck moved on to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Dayton. Over 70 percent of Haller’s employees contributed an average of $157 with 15 contributing precisely $150. (See campaign finance disclosure here)
Taken in isolation, these facts seem harmless enough, but when we connect the dots, they piece together a puzzle that leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Greene County political class is as corrupt as it gets. James Schmidt took the fall for Mike DeWine and “all the king’s men,” and although justice is denied until now, as Yogi Berra said, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”