Wednesday, October 25, 2000

Prosecutor candidates spar over dismissed cases

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — A judicial aide says a clerical error drastically inflated the number of Butler County's misdemeanor cases dismissed for lack of a “speedy trial” — but the candidates for county prosecutor on Tuesday remained at odds over the issue.

        Republican candidate Robin Piper asserts that even corrected data show the numbers are too high — and that the prosecutor's office isn't properly tracking cases.

        Prosecutor Dan Gattermeyer disputed those statements. “All the cases are handled in a way that we know what the dispositions of them are,” he said.

        Last week, Mr. Piper quoted an Ohio Supreme Court report showing dozens of misdemeanor Butler County cases “lost on time” because defendants weren't brought to trial quickly enough. One of the county's three area courts, which handle misdemeanors, now disavows its figures.

        Mr. Piper said the situation showed lack of accountability under the current prosecutor. But Mr. Gattermeyer said there's no such problem, and he accused Mr. Piper of knowingly quoting false data.

        “It was so out of whack that anybody would have known that they (the figures) weren't accurate,” Mr. Gattermeyer said. However, Mr. Piper showed records that his campaign workers obtained to double-check the Supreme Court's numbers, then he retorted: “If the mistake was so obvious, why wasn't it corrected sooner?”

        The West Chester Township court misreported figures from 1996 to the present, Butler County Judicial Aide Patricia Hider said in a Monday letter to the Supreme Court.

        Robert A. Hendrickson, the West Chester court's judge, didn't return telephone calls, but Ms. Hider said court personnel researched all dismissed cases after Mr. Piper cited the Supreme Court's report.

        According to that report, among 172 misdemeanor cases lost on time statewide in 1998, Butler County area courts accounted for 55 — 49 of which came from the West Chester court, a figure Ms. Hider says should be zero.


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