He who has the gold enforces the rules
In OCGJ’s last three posts we dove deeper into three lawbreakers whose privileged status within the political class was solely responsible for a second or third chance to get their lives back without going to prison. Monte Zinn, convicted felon and alleged sexual predator received a nominal fine and probation for enabling the illegal entry of more than a dozen teenage boys from Fiji. Bill Schenck, former Greene County prosecutor and Assistant U.S. Attorney got videotaped by a police cam pissing himself in a drunken stupor, yet received a small fine, probation and community service. Greene County Treasurer James Schmidt abused his public office for more than a decade, but his political class cronies saw to it that his felony crimes were reduced to misdemeanors. All three of these insiders escaped accountability to the rule of law simply because of their privileged status with Mike DeWine and Dave Hobson, “daddy-rabbits” on top of the food chain in the incestuous Greene and Clark County Republican Party.
This week OCGJ will look at the flip side where former Ohio State Representative Clayton Luckie is serving a three-year prison term for a nonviolent crime much less damaging to the public good than the privileged threesome of Zinn, Schenck and Schmidt. The fact that Clayton Luckie is a Black Democrat is really a sidebar to what may be the political witch hunt of the decade in Ohio.
First, OCGJ wants to make it perfectly clear we are not making excuses for Clayton Luckie…..he broke the law and should be prosecuted within the limits of the law, but that should go for Zinn, Schenck and Schmidt as well. The injustice here is not that Clayton Luckie was denied release after serving 13 months of a three year prison term. The injustice is that Zinn, Schmidt and Schenck collectively did not spend even one day in prison after “slap on the wrist” plea bargains.
OCGJ’s allegations of judicial and prosecutorial malfeasance focus on Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Colleen O’Donnell and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien who also stepped in for Greene County Prosecutor Steve Haller to engineer James Schmidt’s excessively lenient plea bargain. Colleen O’Donnell is the youngest sitting judge in Ohio, but of course the fact that her father is Republican Supreme Court Justice Terrance O’Donnell had nothing to do with that. Judge Colleen O’Donnell was appointed by Governor Kasich to succeed retiring Judge John Bender. She has been a lawyer barely more than the six years required to becoming a judge, and none of her cases went to trial, which tells us like most lawyers and prosecutors, she is well versed in the “art of the plea bargain.” O’Donnell must win election in November 2014 to complete the term.
Republican Prosecutor Ron O’Brien has his fingerprints on this case as well. As OCGJ stated earlier, O’Brien was instrumental in former Greene County Treasurer James Schmidt’s profoundly light sentence after he had abused his office for years. If anything, Schmidt’s crimes were worse than Luckie’s. For a decade or more he used taxpayer-funded resources to run his personal business, not to mention illegally doing work for Greene County Probate Judge Robert Hagler, who suffered no consequences for enabling Schmidt’s malfeasance. On the other hand, Luckie’s crimes involved only campaign contributions that were freely given to the candidate before he was elected, not after he had been in office for a decade or so like James Schmidt.
Visiting judge Sumner Walters provides another common thread with the Schmidt case and OCGJ’s lawsuit to obtain public records related to the 2003 BRAC Initiative Agreement. Where Judge Walters gave James Schmidt a softball sentence for confessed crimes, he dismissed well documented evidence of non-appropriation of funds, money laundering and tampering with evidence to name a few, all by citing a procedural technicality, i.e., State of Ohio was omitted from the caption in the original filing.
“Equal Justice Under Law” is engraved on the front of the U.S Supreme Court building. The 14th Amendment guarantees any U.S Citizen equal protection under the law. Sadly, our courts and law enforcement have become tools to award those with wealth and influence and punish those without those resources. It’s not surprising that many surveys place lawyers in the top tier of least trusted professions; nor should we be surprised that former lawyers dominate the halls of Congress. No one group of professionals should be better equipped to understand and follow the Constitution, but no other profession has ignored it more.