Saturday, January 19, 2002

Court officials at odds in mom's case

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A bond hearing for Tiana Centers on Friday turned into a dispute over which Butler County judge will hear the case of the Middletown mother accused of allowing her 3-year-old daughter to be abused and killed.

        Authorities allege Ms. Centers, 20, allowed her boyfriend, Kevin Charles Miles, 27, of Woodlawn, to be alone with her daughter, Courtney, although she knew he had previously hit the girl. Courtney died of internal bleeding Jan. 1. Police say she had been punched.

        During a hearing in Butler County Common Pleas Court, defense lawyer Scott Blauvelt argued for a reduction in his client's “excessive” bond, which a Middletown judge had set at $1 million. Judge Matthew Crehan went along with prosecutors' recommendation of a $100,000 bond.

        But that's where the agreements ended.

        Assistant Prosecutor Craig Hedric objected to a provision allowing Ms. Centers to post 10 percent of the bond through a bondsman. Mr. Hedric also wanted Judge Crehan to remove himself from Ms. Centers' case. And, Mr. Hedric argued that the cases of Ms. Centers and Mr. Miles, which Judge Crehan had severed, should be rejoined and tried by Judge H.J. Bressler.

        “If they're that confident in their case, it shouldn't matter who hears it,” Mr. Blauvelt said. He said he'll fight to keep the cases separate.

        Mr. Hedric said he'll try to persuade Judge Bressler, who has been assigned to hear Mr. Miles' case, to try both cases at once.

        In court documents filed Wednesday, Prosecutor Robin Piper asserted that Judge Crehan had said the cases “were not related” so prosecutors should not consider filing a motion to join them. That type of remark indicates “a predisposition of thought and opinion on this matter,” Mr. Piper said, urging the judge to get off the case.

        Judge Crehan refused, saying: “The Court has no knowledge of the defendant or the facts except as stated in the indictment or in the media accounts. This is all the information the Court would have in any case.”

        Acting in his capacity as administrative judge, Judge Crehan explained that he separated the cases because of issues Judge Bressler raised. At one point, both cases were assigned to Judge Bressler.

        Judge Crehan said Judge Bressler noted the defendants faced different charges and “would in all likelihood not be tried together.”

        Therefore, Judge Crehan, who had been randomly assigned Ms. Centers' case, said he followed court rules and took Ms. Centers' case back from Judge Bressler.

        Ms. Centers is charged with permitting child abuse, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

        Mr. Miles is charged with endangering children and murder. If convicted of both charges, he faces a maximum prison term of 23 years to life.

        Both are being held in the Butler County Jail.


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