Tuesday, November 06, 2001

Roach's record to be sealed or cleared

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The city of Cincinnati will have six months to finish administrative reviews of Officer Stephen Roach, then information connected with his criminal investigation will be sealed or expunged, a judge decided Monday.

        “I have never seen a person more worthy of having his record cleared or sealed than Officer Roach,” said Municipal Court Judge Ralph E. “Ted” Winkler in issuing the order.

        Following a bench trial, Judge Winkler found Officer Roach not guilty Sept. 26 on charges of negligent homicide and obstruction of official business in the death of Timothy Thomas.

        The judge gave the city six months to complete standard interdepartmental investigations using information obtained in the criminal investigation on Officer Roach. No one else will have access to that information during that time, the judge decided, effectively sealing the information from the public.

        On Monday, Assistant City Prosecutor Charlie Rubenstein told Judge Winkler that the city had no objection to sealing Officer Roach's records.

        However, the police division and the Office of Municipal Investigations will need access to the records to complete their investigations.

        Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher testified that these agencies likely would need six months to investigate and issue any possible discipline to Officer Roach.

        Chief Streicher said Officer Roach remains on “an administrative assignment.” He said the officer will have to undergo evaluation before any decision is made to place him back on the street.

        Sealing the records would not hinder civil lawsuits filed as a result of Mr. Thomas' death, officials said.

        Officer Roach declined comment Monday.

        His lawyer, Merlyn Shiverdecker, said a similar request for expungement could soon be filed in the separate case of Officer Patrick Caton, whom Mr. Shiverdecker also defended.

        A jury acquitted Officer Caton last week of misdemeanor assault in the death of Roger Owensby Jr., who died in police custody Nov. 7, 2000.

        Mr. Thomas was wanted on 14 misdemeanor warrants and was running from police down a darkened Over-the-Rhine alley at the time of his April 7 death. Officer Roach told officials Mr. Thomas startled him and his gun went off.

        Mr. Thomas' death ignited days of rioting and drew the attention of federal officials.


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