Hamilton County assistant prosecutor on leave after domestic violence arrest, special prosecutor appointed

Assistant Hamilton County prosecutor charged with domestic violence

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A Hamilton County assistant prosecutor is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of her arrest on a charge of domestic violence Christmas Day, and a special prosecutor has been appointed to handle the case, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office confirmed Tuesday.

Elizabeth Buller “did knowingly cause physical harm” to a male relative, Wyoming police wrote in her criminal complaint.

The offense occurred at a residence on Compton Road on Dec. 25 about 1:30 p.m., police record show.

Officers wrote in court records they based the complaint on “victim statement, physical injuries to the victim and witness statements" and requested a temporary restraining order against her requiring she stay away from the victim.

Buller, 28, declined comment Tuesday.

She is free on her own recognizance and scheduled to return to court Friday.

We have requested a copy of her personnel file from the prosecutor’s office.

“We are conducting an internal review of the situation. I take domestic violence very seriously," Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told FOX19 NOW.

Buller became an employee at the prosecutor’s office in December 2016 and works in the municipal division, said a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, Triffon Callos.

He referred us to the special prosecutor, Steve Wenke, a downtown Cincinnati criminal defense attorney, who said he was still looking into the case and had no comment.

We contacted Wyoming police for more details about her arrest and the incident report.

We received a news release in return that said officers responded to Compton Road “for a report of a physical altercation between subjects in the rear of the residence. As a result of the officer’s investigation, Elizabeth Buller was arrested for Domestic Violence. Ms. Buller was transported to the Hamilton County Justice Center on the charge of domestic violence.”

Police released an incident report that said “Wyoming officers dispatched to the listed residence for a report of a physical domestic. See offense report for further.”

When we requested the offense report, we were told we had to talk to the police chief about it and the chief was not in the office Tuesday.

A neighbor called 911 to report a disturbance across from his backyard, according to a recording released to FOX19 NOW.

Neighbor: “Um, we noticed a dog out which got our attention. But as we were watching, there’s a couple that lives across the backyard and they are clearly fighting one another. I don’t know what it takes to rise to the level of domestic disturbance but it’s been going on for some time. And in and outside, hitting each other and such.”

Dispatcher: "It’s physical?:

Neighbor: “Yeah, it’s physical.”

Dispatcher: “And it appears to be a family altercation?”

Neighbor: “It appears to be, yeah.”

Dispatcher: “We’ll get officers started that way. Anyone appear injured from your vantage point? Are there any weapons?”

Neighbor: “No, I haven’t seen any weapons. They’re using something as weapons like coffee cups and that sort of stuff. I don’t see a real, bona fide weapon in use.”

Buller was booked into the county jail about 3:30 p.m. Dec. 25 and went through jail processing like all other inmates, confirmed Major Bill Rarrick.

Then, Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Tyrone Yates ordered her released from the jail on an OR bond before holding a court hearing as mandated by state law in most circumstances, he acknowledged.

Amy’s Law was signed into law in Ohio in May 2005 toughening requirements for granting bail or bond to people accused of domestic violence in Ohio.

It requires a judge to see and hear the suspect and consider their mindset before setting bond in many cases, but the law isn’t always cut and dried.

The bill was named after a Butler County woman, Amy Rezos of Liberty Township. She crusaded for harsher penalties for domestic abusers after her estranged husband attacked her twice in the summer of 2004, nearly killing her.

Then, while he was being held at the Butler County Jail, he tried to arrange a contract killing with another inmate he would pay $10,000 for the murder of Amy, her brother, and mother.

Rarrick said Buller went through pretrial services at the jail just like all other inmates when they first arrive and was processed.

Those steps include answering medical questions and being searched for weapons and contraband, he said. Inmates also talk with pretrial services workers who explain their charges, and then those employees talk to the judge about bond and possible release before hearings.

“That’s the judge’s decision, not ours even if there is a state law that says you must appear, the judge can overrule it. That is not anything that the sheriff’s office here would get involved with," Rarrick said.

When we contacted the judge for comment, he said he felt the circumstances of Buller’s case didn’t rise to the level of holding her overnight before her bond hearing the following morning and it’s not uncommon to do so.

He also said he didn’t feel she was a danger to the victim, herself or the public. And, he noted, when she appeared in court before him the next day, the victim - her husband - gave a statement saying he wished the matter would be dropped altogether.

Yates insisted he did not give Buller special treatment.

He pointed out that he even had pretrial services workers specifically check if she had access to firearms or was a licensed firearm owner and he prohibited her from guns.

As a condition of her OR bond, he granted the TPO and ordered her to stay away from the victim and have no contact, court records show.

The following day, in another court record, he reiterated the stay away and no contact terms of her OR bond but dropped the TPO, adding: “No TPO" and “Terminate TPO effective 12-26-19."

“So I actually made every effort to ensure she was not given special treatment,” Yates said.

The judge is not alone in using discretion in the law.

Over the past few years, Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser has publicly criticized Area Court judges who granted OR bonds to a few domestic violence suspects, including a former deputy sheriff and a local attorney.

Gmoser has told FOX19 NOW in the past the practice smacks of special treatment and flies in the face of the true intent of Amy’s Law.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told FOX19 NOW Tuesday he doesn’t have enough facts about Buller’s case to form a legal opinion but said: “The law needs to apply equally to everyone, and even more so to an assistant prosecutor who is by rule a minister of justice.”

Former state senator and legislator Gary Cates (R-West Chester Township) arranged to have Amy Rezos appear before House members and testify as they considered “Amy’s Law.”

He told FOX19 NOW Tuesday it may be time for state lawmakers to revisit the law and close some loopholes.

“What we tried to do with Amy’s Law was afford every protection to the victims. We felt that passing that law would make it harder for people to get released on bond before a hearing was set. So, it seems to me that maybe it’s time for the law to be revisited by the legislature to toughen it up because apparently people are finding ways to get around it.”

Copyright 2019 WXIX. All rights reserved.