Saturday, January 27, 2001

Panel checks judge incident

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A Butler County judge accused of issuing a veiled threat to a police officer is under investigation by the Ohio Supreme Court Disciplinary Council.

        Warren County Sheriff Tom Ariss said Friday that Mike Kozanecki, an investigator with the disciplinary council, talked to Deputy Brian Payne last week about the incident involving Common Pleas Judge Keith Spaeth.

        He said Mr. Kozanecki asked Deputy Payne for names of other witnesses to the incident. Mr. Kozanecki had not interviewed any other deputies by Friday.

        Judge Spaeth, of Fairfield, was cited by Deputy Payne in September for drinking beer in a parking lot before a high school football game. In an incident report filed with the Warren County Sheriff's Office, Deputy Payne said he felt threatened and thought Judge Spaeth was looking for preferential treatment when he asked the deputy, “How often do you deal with or are you in Butler County?”

        Judge Spaeth acknowledged that he broke the law by having one beer, and paid $150 in fines and court costs. But he has denied making any threats to the deputy or asking for special treatment. The judge declined to comment Friday when asked whether he knew of or had been contacted about the investigation.

        “I have not seen any complaint made by anyone to the board of grievances, so I can't comment upon it,” Judge Spaeth said.

        Officials with the disciplinary council would not confirm or deny Friday that Judge Spaeth was under investigation. Such matters are confidential until an investigation is completed.

       Sheila McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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