Saturday, June 01, 2002

Charges against teens dropped

Boys were accused of plotting to kill New Miami police chief

By Janice Morse,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A judge on Friday dropped all charges against three boys who were arrested in an alleged conspiracy to kill the New Miami police chief.

        The action followed a grand jury's refusal to indict them under the state's new “serious juvenile offender” law.

        Defense lawyers, their clients and families said they are relieved and the accusations were blown out of proportion.

        Police Chief Duane Pelfrey and some New Miami citizens are upset. They said the threat to the chief was imminent even if no date for an ambush was set.

        Meanwhile, Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper said he wonders whether a state law change is needed because current laws didn't seem to adequately address the situation.

        “We have a lot of different laws that kind of land all around our facts (in this case), but none really addressing our facts,” Mr. Piper said. “These kids were reckless, irresponsible ... I believe that the legislature should consider some type of charge to hold this type of conduct accountable.”

        Police have said several of the teens gave statements admitting they talked about using stolen shotguns to carry out their plan. And under questioning, one youth drew a diagram showing where the would-be assassins planned to wait and open fire on the chief as he reported for duty, police said.

        But alleged gun thefts happened before the discussion — and Ohio's murder-conspiracy law requires proof of “a substantial overt act” to move a discussed plan forward. Chief Pelfrey has conceded the investigation might not have nailed down that proof.

        Two other suspects had been initially charged: Samuel Harrison, 19, and a fourth juvenile. But charges against that juvenile were dropped, and Mr. Harrison was indicted Thursday on a burglary charge only.

        Scott Blauvelt, Mr. Harrison's lawyer on the conspiracy charge, said, “Proving conspiracy is difficult — and I think it should be, because talk is one thing and actions are another thing.”

        Some New Miami residents thought otherwise.

        Rick Gresham, 43, while preparing to trim a neighbor's lawn Friday morning, said the alleged plot set the town on edge and “a lot of people took it seriously.”

        “When I was a kid, I got into curious things, mischief. But nothing like that,” he said. “When you go around threatening somebody's life or livelihood, there ought to be repercussions.”

        When the teens were simply released, Chief Pelfrey said, “I'm very disappointed. I'm very upset.”

        The chief's wife, Michelle, said: “What if this had happened before it could be stopped? I wonder what the courts would have said then, that my husband knew about this and it was his fault for not stopping it? ...There needs to be something done to these kids.”


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