Since March, 2008, yours truly has been writing a political blog on the ins and outs of Stark County politics and government.
In January, 2009, a situation materialized in Marlboro Township wherein Police Chief Ron Devies and his son Kyle were being investigated on allegations of tampering with the township's computer operations.
In the opinion of the SCPR, when the facts of the case became known (and The Report did have the chief's version which was recorded on video and published on the SCPR), it was clear that the Devies had done nothing wrong and that the file-up was a consequence of improper communications between the Devies and township trustees (Wise and Wolf).
Accordingly, from the outset The Report believed that no charges would be filed against the Devies once Sheriff Swanson and Prosecutor John Ferrero got into the matter.
Well, the SCPR was wrong and the Devies both got charged with fourth degree felonies and some misdemeanor charges.
While yours truly does not write the Stark County Political Report as a lawyer commenting on the legal significance of legal-connected matters, it was abundantly clear to anyone - it doesn't take a lawyer - that something was not right about the Devies being indicted.
And, of course, even the general public knows that saying, which has a lot of truth to it, to wit: "a prosecutor worth his salt could indict a ham sandwich."
Once the indictments occurred, The Report (believing quality of the case to be almost non-existent) predicted in these pages that Ferrero's legal staff would try to "plea bargain" out of the felonies. And they did (confirmed to The Report by the one of the Devies' attorneys). Only trouble with plea bargaining effort was that the Devies were not buying.
They were firm in their conviction that they had done nothing wrong.
The Devies went out and got a couple of outstanding local attorneys (Jakimedes and Reinbold [a retired Stark County Common Pleas judge.]
Once the trial began (the fall of 2009), the SCPR was there with camera-in-hand to record the testimony. If anything, the testimony of Chief Deputy Perez (especially) and others reinforced The Report's (layman-vantage-point/yours truly is not a criminal defense attorney) take on the case.
The Report believes that most non-lawyers (and, perhaps, all criminal defense attorneys) would say that the case should NOT have been brought in the first place!
But it was and the long and the short of it is that Judge Lee Sinclair did the right thing in dismissing the case after chief criminal prosecutor Dennis Barr completed Ohio's case.
Hallelujah! The system worked!!!
While the Devies were undoubtedly gratified at the results, they had to be thinking to themselves what an injustice it was that they had been put through this process.
People do make mistakes. The SCPR believes that Ferrero's office made a mistake in not identifying this situation for what it was and resolving the matter well short of charges being made and, certainly, well short of an actual trial being started.
After the case dismissal, all John Ferrero had to do was to publicly apologize to the Devies and the Stark County general public for the mistake the SCPR believes his office made.
The Report has confirmed with Chief Devies that a Ferrero apology would make all the difference in the world.
In making such an apology, Ferrero owes it to the public to give some sort of explanation as to how Devies could happen and what structures and procedures of government he will put in place to ensure that there is not a Devies II.
Ferrero has had opportunities to apologize to Chief Devies (in terms of proximity) on a number of occasions, but never did. On one such occasion, Devies tells the SCPR that he and Ferrero were within two people of one another. However, in the final analysis, it does not take proximity.
Undoubtedly, Executive Editor Gauger will provide a forum. It would be a shot in the arm for a mediocre - at best - editorial board.
After all, you have two honorable, community serving men who faced the prospect of prison time, if convicted. The Report is adamant that an apology needs to be forthcoming.
The SCPR is pleased to have written as no other Stark County media outlet wrote during this - what appears to have been - a miscarriage of justice in the sense of Ferrero seeking indictments and carrying the matter onto trial But, of course, not when the matter got in Judge Sinclair's hand.
The Report (knowing Sinclair as well as yours truly does) knew that he would get it right.
Post-dismissal, Ferrero should have "eaten a little crow." Ferrero should have said that the SCPR had it right from the get-go, apologized to the Devies and the Stark general public (with some explanation and remediation initiative), and then moved on.
Well, the only thing that Ferrero did was move on.
Where did he move to?
You are not going to believe this.
Ferrero (who hails from Massillon - any connection to Judge Eddie Elum and Massillon clerk of courts Johnnie A. Maier, Jr?) files a violation of the Ohio Rules Professional Responsibility against yours truly, as if I had written the blog as an attorney and, as if what was written was not covered by an attorney's Ohio and U.S constitutional rights to free speech.
Of course, Ferrero was nowhere near yours truly's actual role in filing the complaint: that of being an opinion journalist and politics/government commentator.
And the irony of it?
First, it got dismissed pretty much out-of-hand; as it should had been. (Yours truly only learned about the complaint after the Disciplinary Counsel made her decision).
Second, the decision makes it apparent to yours truly that he was within his Ohio and U.S. constitutional right - EVEN WRITING AS AN ATTORNEY (which he wasn't) - to free speech in writing as has been written.
To emphasize, the fact of the matter is that yours truly was not writing as an attorney.
You would think that when Ferrero gets "slam-dunked" for a second time, he would have it in him to telephone yours truly and apologize for filing a totally unwarranted complaint.
But he hasn't and, yours truly is not holding his breath waiting for the warranted apology.
Ferrero's action in filing the complaint, could not realistically be - in the opinion of The Report - a concern about the SCPR's respect for Stark County bar and its courts. Anyone who knows yours truly, knows that The Report respects Stark's attorneys and judges to the highest degree.
However, as a journalist, The Report will not gloss over what The Report perceives to be a problem in the administration of justice in Stark County.
The SCPR believes that Ferrero was using the Ohio Rules of Professional Responsibility as a political attack. Not only for John Ferrero, but many other Stark County elected officials who have been subjected to The Report's incisive political/governmental analysis. They don't like The Report's findings and opinions and are desperately looking for ways - any way, including the clearly inapplicable - to shut Olson up.
So it could be that the general query among these politicos is this: How can we stop Olson? Obviously, Ferrero is going to deny such to have had such a motivation. Nonetheless, that strong suspicion lingers with yours truly.
Again, The Report believes that Ferrero - if he was motivated as yours truly suspects - was the lead not just for himself in a "what about my political future" context, but for number of other Stark County officials who have come under intense scrutiny of the SCPR.
The Canton Repository did a pathetic job of opinionating on the Devies matter. But that is Executive Editor Jeff Gauger for you. He appears to The Report to be so intent on maintaining his newspaper's insider relationship with the "powers that be" in Stark County that the SCPR sees him as directing the editorial staff to steer clear of the likes of Ferrero in any kind of critical vein.
At the end of this story, one thing should be abundantly clear. Stark County needs a new prosecutor. If a police chief can be put through what the Devies got put through, then shouldn't the rest of us worry?
Ferrero will have to stand for reelection in 2012. Who shall run against him?
Last time out, Ferrero ran unopposed. Big mistake! That will not happen again, even if yours truly has to (reluctantly) run. Campaign theme: "Remember Devies!"
The SCPR plans to keep up the drumbeat for Ferrero being cast aside by voters in November, 2012. Preferably, it will be at the hand of one of Stark County's many able attorneys; someone other than yours truly.
Notwithstanding Prosecutor Ferrero's endeavor to tarnish the professional reputation of yours truly, the SCPR pledges to the Stark County public to keep the heat on; not only Ferrero, but all of Stark County government. For sure, The Report expects to get "blow-back."
In the meantime, yours truly is waiting for a Prosecutor John Ferrero apology!
As is the Devies family!!
As is the Stark County general public!!!