Federal judge dismisses lawsuit against Butler Co. prosecutor by deputy

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit against Butler Co. prosecutor by deputy
Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser (FOX19 NOW/file)
Butler County Deputy Jason Hatfield (FOX19 NOW/file)
Butler County Deputy Jason Hatfield (FOX19 NOW/file)

HAMILTON, Ohio (FOX19) - A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser by a deputy.

In a statement Wednesday, Gmoser said, “No settlement offer was ever made by me, nor was the lawsuit dismissed pursuant to a settlement agreement.”

Judge Michael Barrett said in court documents that the “matter is closed and terminated.”

Gmoser wrote in a 2015 letter to Sheriff Richard Jones an informed source told him Deputy Jason Hatfield regularly overcharged suspects to get more court overtime because of expensive child support payments. He described Hatfield as a “rogue deputy.”

The sheriff’s office transferred Hatfield off road patrol. The sheriff’s office has said that is not why they moved him.

Hatfield’s attorney, Robert Croskery, filed a court memorandum with a written transcript of a discussion between Gmoser and a man named John Yeager.

Croskery askED the court to consider the transcript of the discussion new evidence in Hatfield’s lawsuit against Gmoser. He says it shows the prosecutor is waging a prolonged series of vengeful acts against the deputy.

"(Hatfield) has recently come into position of a transcript of a taped conversation between (Gmoser) and a third party witness, that provides evidence that relates to (Hatfield's) contention that (Gmoser) had a personal vendetta against (Hatfield)," Croskery wrote.

"Specifically, the evidence, obtained from another case filed against (Hatfield) establishes that, in a conversation with a potential witness, that (Gmoser) indicated that, if Jason Hatfield were to attempt to enter the witnesses' residence that the Prosecutor advicates (sic) that the witness should "shoot to kill" rather than wounding the Sheriff.

"Specifically, the witness states 'I mean I went and got my conceal to carry permit that night. So yeah, I would shoot him the next time he came into my house because - ' and the response from (Gmoser) was 'Well, by the way, do me a favor. If you know it is him(Hatfield), don't shoot him in the knee.'

Croskery wrote: “The only reasonable inference is that Prosecutor Gmoser was advocating that the witness shoot to kill. Such evidence establishes that Gmoser’s actions against Hatfield that resulted in Hatfield’s reassignment were likely not motivated by his alleged duties of a prosecutor, but rather were ultra vires (beyond the scope of legal power) and intended to inflict damage on (Hatfield) because of a personal vendetta.”

Reached for comment, Croskery wrote in a statement to FOX19 NOW:

"Much of what (Gmoser) said is simple leading of a witness to try to ensure favorable testimony. However, in two decades of practicing law, this is the first time I have ever encountered a prosecutor that has suggested that, if the opportunity arose, a person should shoot to kill a law enforcement officer. It is greatly troubling."

Croskery, Gmoser said in response, is taking his comments out of context and completely misrepresenting them.

Initially, when we asked Gmoser about the transcript and allegations in the court records, he said his comments to Yeager were meant to be humorous. Gmoser said he was not advising or suggesting anyone shoot the deputy.

"When you consider the context of everything I told him, it was said in jest," Gmoser said.

Gmoser said his remarks came as he advised the man who already had a license to carry a concealed weapon about Ohio's Castle Doctrine defense. It means "your home is your castle" and you have the right to protect yourself and your family inside your home if you feel you are in imminent danger.

"The man was very upset with Deputy Hatfield for making what he perceived to be an unauthorized search of his home," Gmoser said.

Gmoser said a memorandum of understanding between the prosecutor's office and sheriff's office prevents investigators with the prosecutor's office from looking into allegations related to sheriff's deputies. He said he has to do it himself or refer it to the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Gmoser denied allegations he has a vendetta against Hatfield: "I didn't even know what Deputy Hatfield looked like before I wrote the letter to the sheriff saying 'Houston, we may have a problem.' That is an absolute fact."

Gmoser said after reviewing the transcript further, he remembered that when he made the remarks, he was telling Yeager not to shoot the deputy, period.

Gmoser conceded he could have been "more explicative" in his discussion with Yeager.

"I was saying 'do me a favor and don't shoot him at all,'" Gmoser said. "'If you know it's him, don't shoot him in the knee.' That doesn't mean shoot him in the head. That means don't shoot him in the knee. Don't shoot him at all."

Gmoser said Croskery's assumption in the court record that "the only reasonable inference is that ...Gmoser was advocating that the witness shoot to kill" is flat-out wrong.

"No, that's not the only reasonable inference because I gave (Yeager) the Castle Doctrine immediately after that, immediately after that. Why would I go through all that detail if I was advocating something else?" Gmoser said.

The transcript goes on to state that after Gmoser advises Yeager "If you know it is him, don't shoot him in the knee" Yeager responds: "Well, no."

The transcript then states:

Gmoser: "Listen, I have - let me give you a quick preview on something. The Castle doctrine, you can protect your house, but if you know, if you know - here is what happens. Let me give you a classic example that I always use.

"Your next door neighbor is a drunk. Three time he has come crashing through your house at 2 am. He's drunk. He breaks up stuff. He then goes up on the floor, and you are really pissed off at him.

"You go out and get yourself a gun. You know the next time he comes in, he breaks into your house again, you see him and you shoot him dead. Unfortunately, you are going to jail for murder because the Castle doctrine, even though this is your Castle, it doesn't protect you when you know it is not self-defense."

Yeager: "I know, I know."

Gmoser: "I am just putting that out."

Hatfield sued Gmoser in May 2016, claiming the prosecutor's letter about him contained "knowingly bogus and unfounded charges."

"Gmoser knew or should have known the charges to be false, based on information he possessed," the lawsuit reads.

Hatfield’s complaint stated he was removed from the sheriff’s patrol into jail transport, indicating the move was a demotion.

The deputy was taken off jail transport and returned to patrol when he filed the lawsuit, according to his complaint.

Hatfield "was exonerated" by the sheriff's office's internal investigation into the allegations Gmoser made in the letter, his lawsuit reads.

The deputy also contends the Gmoser letter has prevented him from being able to be hired at other police departments.

Gmoser then asked a federal judge to dismiss Hatfield’s suit against him.

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