Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Councilman charged in Internet sex sting

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - Legal counsel has advised city officials to "let the judicial process run its course'' in the case of an Independence council member charged with soliciting what he thought was a 15-year-old girl for sex via a computer chat room.

Otis Ketron, 47, was arrested Friday in Winton Terrace in Cincinnati and charged with one count of attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and five counts of importuning, or sexual solicitation, all felonies. He remains in the Hamilton County Justice Center under $600,000 bond.

Last November, the first-term Independence City Council member was the fourth-highest vote getter in the 12-person race for six council seats. Since taking office in January, Ketron has chaired the city's Building and Finance Committee, which is overseeing construction of a municipal complex. The father of four is a project engineer for Procter & Gamble Co..

Ketron's attorney, Bradley Swillinger, could not be reached for comment Monday.

"If the city's looking to me for an opinion, my recommendation would be to let the judicial process run its course,'' said Independence City Attorney Jed Deters. "Let's give the guy his day in court. I don't know of anybody who's making a push for him to step down.''

Should Ketron resign, council would appoint someone to fill his seat until the November election, Deters said. Candidates could then file to fill the remaining year of Ketron's two-year term.

"Everybody's innocent until proven guilty,'' Deters said. "I hope (the charges) aren't true. ... But if there's any truth to any of this, I would anticipate he would voluntarily resign.''

Independence Mayor Chris Moriconi said he was in shock after Ketron's wife called him Friday afternoon with the news.

"It was unbelievable when we heard it,'' Moriconi said. "But we have to let the law and the court system play itself out. We can't jump to any conclusions until we have all of the facts.''

Moriconi said he consulted with Deters over the weekend and asked him to research what the city's next move should be.

"This all happened so fast that I want to make sure we follow the guidelines and the laws that are already in place,'' Moriconi said.

The mayor added he plans to refer any questions to the city attorney.

Moriconi described Ketron as "a low-key gentleman'' who had always acted "in a professional matter.''

"This doesn't sound like the Otis Ketron that I've worked with the last few months,'' Moriconi said.

E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com

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