The Clayton Luckie-James Schmidt Paradox
OCGJ began 2014 with the Anuszewski-Zinn Paradox which documented bazaar contradictions in the outcome of two court cases more than a decade apart, but within virtually the same judicial and law enforcement infrastructure. We will begin 2015 with a similar analysis of two other cases related to Clayton Luckie and James Schmidt, two elected officials forced out of office by ethics violations, one receiving a three year prison sentence and the other probation and community service.
A good intelligence analyst earns his bread and butter by detecting what changes and what doesn’t. A great intelligence analyst earns hers the same way, but doing it in real time or near real time. The same can be said for any law enforcement investigator, investigative reporter or whistleblower. So what was the same and what was different in the Clayton Luckie and James Schmidt cases? First, let’s consider the similarities.
- Both defendants apologized and took responsibility for their actions,
- Both defendants were fined,
- Both defendants not only reached a plea agreement, but reached the agreement with the same Franklin County Prosecutor, Republican Ron O’Brien.
That’s pretty much the extent of the similarities in the two cases, but you may find the differences interesting to say the least:
- Schmidt is a White-American Republican; Luckie a Black-American Democrat,
- Schmidt sat on the Greene County Republican Executive Committee for more than a decade, elbow to elbow with County Prosecutor Steve Haller, who had to recuse himself from the case due to a conflict of interest, which brought in another prosecutor, Republican Ron O’Brien;
- Luckie is a single parent; Schmidt’s spouse is First Assistant Prosecutor in Greene County and reports directly to Greene County Prosecutor Steve Haller. Steve Haller is a former law partner with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine;
- Schmidt is a long-time friend and political ally of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. By definition, Democrat Clayton Luckie is DeWine’s and Schmidt’s political adversary,
- The FBI was nowhere to be seen in the Schmidt investigation, but played a huge role in prosecuting Clayton Luckie;
- Luckie pled guilty to eight felony counts and one misdemeanor; Schmidt’s plea agreement was reduced to four misdemeanors.
There are other significant differences, but none as enlightening as those that surfaced in the aftermath of the trial and sentencing.
After serving barely half of the three years “community service sanctions” specified in his plea agreement, Mr. Schmidt self-reported his nefarious conduct to the Ohio Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel. The Counsel suspended Schmidt’s law license for a year, but immediately stayed the suspension based on mitigating factors including 24 character letters that “attest to Schmidt’s being a well-respected attorney and a valuable asset to the Greene County Legal community.”(1) Now here’s an attorney who for at least two decades used public resources to operate his private law practice, conspired with a Greene County Probate Court Judge to illegally benefit from a public contract and fired an employee because she testified against him in an Ohio Ethics Commission investigation.(6) But you have 24 attorneys, most, if not all of whom are Republicans, including a U.S. District Court Judge, two common pleas court judges, and a former U.S. Attorney telling us James Schmidt is a pillar of the community….it makes you wonder how they would characterize a really dishonest lawyer, but in any case, he’d probably be a Democrat like Clayton Luckie. Luckie wasn’t as lucky as Schmidt. Democrat Luckie got a three year prison sentence. Republican Schmidt got his law license back even before he had served his three-year probation.
Luckie’s plea agreement included the possibility of early release after six months if he cooperated with the FBI in an ongoing investigation,(2) but no mention of the possibility of early release or Luckie being uncooperative with the FBI in Judge O’Connell’s judgment denying early release.(4) “A bargain is a bargain,” O’Donnell wrote, but of course the political class conveniently forgets their part of the bargain if it does not advance their agenda. By the way, did we mention that Colleen O’Donnell is a Republican Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge and daughter of Republican Supreme Court Justice Terrence O’Donnell?
- Disciplinary Counsel v. Schmidt, 134 Ohio St.3d 557, (Dec 6) 2012-Ohio-5712.
- Laura Bischoff, Ex-State Rep. Luckie going to prison, Dayton Daily News, Jan 23, 2013.
- FBI Press Release, Former Ohio State Representative Clayton R. Luckie, II Sentenced to Three Years in Prison, January 23, 2013.
- Laura Bishoff, Luckie to stay in prison, judge says, Dayton Daily News (DDN), April 22, 2014.
- Paul Collins, Schmidt resigns from position, Times Community Newspapers, Dec 14, 2010.
- Cornelius Frolik, Fear of job loss kept some Schmidt workers quiet, Dayton Daily News, Dec 19, 2010.
- Cornelius Frolik & Lawrence Budd, Greene County Treasurer resigns from office, DDN, Dec 14, 2010.