HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) - A Butler County business owner arrested over the weekend and charged with violently attacking his wife made his first court appearance in the case Monday.
Jeffrey Couch, 51, owner of Jeff Couch’s RV Nation in Trenton, faced Butler County Area II Court Magistrate John McNally via a video arraignment from the Butler County Jail.
His bond was set at $16,000, and the magistrate issued a temporary protection order requiring Couch to stay away from his wife and not to attempt to contact her personally or through others.
His wife told West Chester police he punched her in the face multiple times and “slammed her head "onto a paved driveway multiple times causing serious physical harm,” according to a copy of a criminal complaint.
The case will return to Area II Court for a preliminary hearing at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The alleged attack occurred Friday night at their residence on Tamarron Place in the gated Wetherington country club/golf course subdivision off Tylersville Road near Interstate 75.
Couch spent the weekend at the jail on charges of felonious assault and domestic violence.
He was held without bond until his arraignment.
Butler County Mike Gmoser tells FOX19 NOW he is taking this case directly to grand jury for possible indictment to avoid an appearance of unconfirmed reports of potential influence.
Gmoser said domestic violence suspects must be held in jail until they appear before a judge and that’s exactly what happened in this case.
He said Monday he is working to make sure the law is followed and the case is properly handled.
“The victim has elected not to come today,” he said Monday morning just before Couch appeared in court.
“A substantial bond will be requested, as well as a no contact order. The case will proceed directly to the grand jury. I intend to take this case to the grand jury next week. There are unconfirmed reports of potential influence that I want to avoid the appearance of.
"I have unconfirmed reports that there have been unconfirmed reports of discussions with people in high positions and wanting certain things to occur. That doesn’t work with me. I take those real seriously. My hope is that’s all baloney and it may very well be baloney, but until we found out what the baloney looks like, we are going to check it out very carefully.
"Apparently this individual lives in a very upscale area and has some level of political influence possibly. I am not going to let that get out of hand. I am now going to move this case forward and take it out of the local hand directly to the grand jury. Let’s not forget someone is innocent until proven guilty. I want to make sure that nobody does stupid stuff in the meantime. This is unconfirmed, but I have it on good authority that he was expected to be at the Lincoln Day Dinner and he apparently made a substantial contribution to the party and that’s all well and good. That’s totally his right and that by itself doesn’t’ mean anything.”
Hundreds attended the annual Butler County Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday night in Fairfield.
Couch was expected to attend, but did not following his arrest.
When asked about how West Chester police handled the case, Gmoser responded: “West Chester Police Department has done an excellent job of documenting this case, complete with photographs and all the things necessary to proceed.”
Barb Wilson, a spokeswoman for West Chester Township, tells FOX19 NOW the police department responds to nearly 200 domestic violence calls and about 30 felonious assault calls each year.
“This incident has been handled in the same manner as all the others - with integrity and professionalism," she wrote in an email when we inquired about the handling of the case. “The investigation of this incident is closed by arrest and the case is now in the hands of the prosecutor.”
A representative in court for the prosecutor’s office Monday told the judge “Also there have been people, high-ranking political officials that have been calling neighbors and those kinds of things concern Mr. Gmoser.” He did not elaborate.
State Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Township, lives in Wetherington, along with chairman of the Butler County Republican Party, Todd Hall, and both men know Couch.
Lang told FOX19 NOW he has not called any of Couch’s neighbors.
“I got a call from a few residents asking ‘what’s going on?’ and my answer is 'you know what I know. ' I have not called one neighbor," Lang said Monday afternoon."
Hall also said he did not call any neighbors.
“Mr. Couch expressed interest in purchasing a table for Lincoln Day 2019 a month ago. After the incident happened Friday night or Saturday early morning, the first thing I did as party chairman was fill his table with other guests. I did not cash his check and did not give him verbal credit at the event. Obviously, he had other things he needs to deal with right now.”
Hall said Monday he had no information on Gmoser’s comments: “I did not call Jeff Couch’s neighbor. This is a personal matter. This has absolutely nothing to do politically as far as I’m concerned.”
Couch’s lawyer, Erik Niehaus, said Couch’s wife has told him she wasn’t afraid of her husband.
Niehaus said Couch posted bond by Monday afternoon, but he was not sure when Couch would be released from the jail.
He said he may release a statement later after speaking with his client.
In court Monday, Niehaus declared a conflict of interest with Couch’s case going before Area III Court.
Niehuas is West Chester’s former police chief.
He resigned in 2014 to pursue a career as an attorney and go into private practice with Butler County Area III Court Judge Dan Haughey and others.
Area III Court’s jurisdiction includes West Chester.
Niehaus and Haughey have since merged their law firm with Rittgers & Rittgers according to a news release “Joining Forces” on Rittgers’ website.
In light of that conflict, the case was moved to Butler County Area II Court.
Niehaus said he supported Gmoser’s decision to take the case directly to grand jury.
“We are unaware of any of those issues, any outside political influences, but if Mr. Gmoser wants to take the case directly to grand jury, we would support his decision. We are about doing the right thing. We want fairness and transparency."