CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The trial of suspended Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter continued Monday with more prosecution witnesses. Hunter's attorney used the bulk of this morning's court time, presenting to the jury a string of evidence showing multiple examples of back dating inside the Hamilton County court system.
Back dating happens when a judicial entry is dated to make it look as though it was created on an earlier date than it was actually created. Hunter faces charges that she back dated orders to keep prosecutors from appealing her rulings in at least two juvenile cases.
The entries prosecutors are interested in and the ones Hunter is accused of back dating deal with orders in which prosecutors could have appealed. Those do not include filings such as continuances, docket entries, etc.
Hunter also faces nine felony counts of forgery, theft in office, evidence tampering and influencing a public contract.
Hunter's attorney, Clyde Bennett, II, said in past hearings he would show evidence that back dating court documents was a common practice inside Hamilton County's court system. Bennett, today, entered into evidence 12 cases that had back-dated entries. Each entry was created using four separate employee identifications of court employees inside the Hamilton County juvenile division.
None of the filings Bennett entered into evidence were created using Hunter's county identification number. None of the case entries prosecutors accused Hunter of back dating were created using Hunter's identification number.
Prosecutors called Don Flischell to the stand this morning. Flischell is the vice president of operations for ProWare, a software company near Blue Ash that is contracted to run the computerized case management systems for Hamilton County.
Flischell confirmed each employee identification number was correct in the evidence Bennett presented, as well as the dates of the back dated records.
Hunter's defense team expects special prosecutors to call Hamilton County court clerk staffer Lisa Miller to the stand this week. Miller, Bennett argued, was one of the ones making changes to the court entries to facilitate the backdating prosecutors accused Hunter of doing.
Flischell also identified court staffers Connie Murdoch, Cathy Dykes and John Collum as owning the IDs used in the back dated cases. Bennett's questioning and Flischell's answers did not give context as to why back dating occurred. Bennett did suggest the back dating could be a result of court staffers trying to catch up on entries that they'd gotten behind in entering from the prior court sessions.
Prosecutors acknowledged backdating may have happened on occasion, but not for entries that would jeopardize a case, such as appealable orders. The charges Hunter faces related to backdating are related to two orders where prosecutors planned to appeal Hunter's decision. The evidence Bennett presented Monday do not include any order where prosecutors planned to appeal.
Hunter's accused of backdating judicial entries to prevent prosecutors from appealing her decisions in at least two juvenile cases from 2013. Hunter backdated the entries, prosecutors contended, to make county prosecutors miss mandated appeals deadlines in cases where the state disagreed with Hunter's rulings. In the two cases where prosecutors said they found backdating, juveniles were charged with gun crimes and Hunter's rulings would have essentially caused dismissals in the cases.
Miller worked as Hunter's case manager during Hunter's time on the bench. Bennett's said multiple times during the trial that Miller s ID was used to log into the case tracking system and placed backdated entries into the juvenile case files. Miller will get her chance to tell the jury her side soon, as prosecutors plan to call her as a witness.
Last week, Bennett cross examined prosecution witness Bill Breyer, a retired Hamilton County prosecutor's office lawyer, and suggested there was a signature stamp in Hunter's office that staffers used to sign Hunter's name to court orders. Last Thursday, when the trial broke for the weekend, the final question of Bennett's cross examination of Breyer was about whether Breyer knew anything about the signature stamp.
Prosecutors are building a case that Hunter refused to follow orders from the Ohio Supreme Court and established rules and policies in the Hamilton County court system and using her position to break the law. Hunter's side continues to describe a scenario where the charges against Hunter came about because of political vendetta against the suspended judge.
The vendetta, Hunter's side has argued, stems from the 2010 judicial election where Hunter filed a lawsuit and forced the county elections board to recount provisional ballots. When the ballots were recounted, Hunter won her race against John Williams, who was later appointed to a juvenile court judgeship and made Hunter's administrative judge.
The trial is scheduled for up to six weeks. Today marks the beginning of the third week of trial.
FOX19 investigative reporter Jody Barr continues to follow the proceedings. You can follow him for live updates on twitter @FOX19Jody.