Wednesday, February 06, 2002

Who hears abuse case undecided

Prosecutor says judge is biased

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A high-profile Butler County child abuse case is moving forward again, but a legal issue still might need to be resolved by the Ohio Supreme Court.

        Common Pleas Administrative Judge Matthew Crehan has transferred the case of Tiana Centers, 20, to Judge H.J. Bressler, who set a Feb. 15 hearing for the Middletown woman. She is accused of permitting child abuse in the Jan. 1 bleeding death of her daughter Courtney, 3.

        Ms. Centers' boyfriend, Kevin Charles Miles, 27, of Woodlawn, faces murder and child endangering charges.

        Ms. Centers' case was put on hold last week after Prosecutor Robin Piper asked the Supreme Court to remove Judge Crehan from it. Mr. Piper alleged the judge showed bias or prejudice when he severed the two cases and assigned Ms. Centers' case to himself.

        In a response filed Monday with the Supreme Court, Judge Crehan said, “What (Mr. Piper) takes issue with is my interpretation of a (local court rule). To make a statement that my interpretation of the rule makes me biased and prejudiced is absurd.”

        Mr. Piper declined to comment Tuesday.

        Last month, Judge Bressler had been assigned to both cases. He noted they involved different offenses, so the defendants might not be tried together, Judge Crehan said.

        “To avoid having this case bouncing around like a pingpong ball between judges,” Judge Crehan said, he reassigned Ms. Centers' case to himself.

        Although the cases are now back with Judge Bressler, Ms. Centers' case might not stay there.

        If her lawyer, Scott Blauvelt, persuades Judge Bressler to separate the cases again, Ms. Centers' case would bounce back into Judge Crehan's court under the rules. So, Judge Crehan told the Supreme Court, “a decision on disqualification would appear to be necessary.”

        Mr. Blauvelt could not be reached for comment.


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