Tuesday, May 08, 2001

Prosecutor: Jury did right thing

Allen says investigation was thorough, fair

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Mike Allen paused a moment as he stepped to the lectern Monday evening to announce the most-anticipated grand jury indictment in his two years as Hamilton County prosecutor.

        For three days he'd sat on the news that a grand jury leveled two misdemeanor charges against a Cincinnati police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man in a dark alley a month earlier.

        And while he was aware his announcement could add to the discontent that touched off days of rioting last month, he did not hesitate Monday to support the grand jury's findings.

        “I believe they did the right thing,” said Mr. Allen, a former Cincinnati police officer. “We presented this case straight up. We were committed to doing everything we could to reassure the people of Cincinnati and Hamilton County that this investigation was exhaustive and the presentation to the grand jury was thorough and fair.”

        The 45-year-old prosecutor had been working long hours and had addressed the nine grand jurors several times during their two days of hearing evidence last week. He was cognizant of the pressure, but put his trust in his top two assistant prosecutors, Tom Longano and Mark Piepmeier, to present the evidence against Officer Stephen Roach in the death of Timothy Thomas.

        Late Friday, after the grand jury finished hearing evidence in the case, he talked with Cincinnati Police Chief Thomas Streicher and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office about the timing of the announcement.

        For days, he'd been fielding calls and e-mails from citizens “begging” him to release the grand jury findings during an evening hour. It would be easier for suburbanites to flee any violence, they told him.

        While Mr. Allen staunchly denied public sentiment in any way affected the grand jury's decision, he admitted it did play a part in his decision to announce the indictments Monday. The Reds weren't playing Monday, bars on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine would be closed and the Flying Pig Marathon would be over.

        If anything has caused Mr. Allen to struggle, it is that his office won't be prosecuting the case.

        The Cincinnati City Charter dictates that all misdemeanor cases occurring within city limits are tried by the city attorney. The county handles misdemeanors that happen outside the city and all felonies.

        “We have had the case from the beginning, we worked with Cincinnati police department from the beginning. We were the ones that brought it through to the grand jury,” Mr. Allen said.

        “I don't want it to appear that we're dumping the case on the city prosecutors but the city's charter provides that the city shall prosecute every misdemeanor that occurs within the city.”

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