Former Butler County auditor sentencing delayed
HAMILTON, Ohio (WXIX) - Sentencing for former Butler County auditor Roger Reynolds has been postponed by more than a month, new court records show.
Reynolds’ attorney filed a request for a new trial last week, alleging the state failed to turn over “exculpatory evidence” that would have been favorable to his defense, new court records show.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office rejected that in court filings late Friday afternoon, saying it’s “patently untrue” and their entire stance “is based on egregious errors of fact and law.”
“The State did not hide the existence of these potential witnesses. The Defense simply ignored them,” reads the court record submitted by Attorney General Dave Yost.
Reynolds’ sentencing had been set for Feb. 15 after the judge denied his motion for acquittal and prosecutors announced they want Reynolds to serve jail time.
A hearing is now set for oral arguments on Feb. 27 with sentencing on March 31, records from the Butler County Clerk’s Office show.
Reynolds, 53, of Liberty Township, was forced to step down late last year after a Butler County jury convicted him of a felony public corruption-related charge directly related to his office and the Lakota school district: unlawful interest in a public contract.
The jury acquitted him on the four other charges, including bribery.
Reynolds faces six to 18 months of incarceration and then probation when he is sentenced next week. He also could be ordered to pay up to a $5,000 fine.
The judge also has the option to just put him on probation.
If the defense has its way, however, there won’t be a sentencing hearing now.
Reynolds’ lawyer, Chad Ziepfel, accuses the state of withholding thousands of records from the defense that “directly contradicts and impeaches the key testimony” of the sole state witness (now-retired Lakota Treasurer Jenni Logan) who testified about the charge he ultimately was convicted of.
One of four emails “suppressed” by the state, according to the motion, was written on April 26, 2017, from Gene Powell, Four Bridges golf pro and Lakota East’s girls golf coach at the time, to the owners of Four Bridges, Doug Herald and Graham Parlin.
The email would have “drastically changed the defense’s trial strategy and ultimately the jury verdict on” (the charge he was convicted of), the motion states.
As a result, the motion contends, the state violated Reynolds’ right to due process and a new trial is required.
The state insists the information the defense is citing would not have resulted in a different verdict.
“Defendant’s motion is riddled with misrepresentations regarding the discovery and evidence presented in this case. Despite being aware of Powell, (Lakota East athletic director and assistant principal Rich) Bryant, Herald, and Parlin, and despite being aware of the nature of their involvement, Defendant chose not to call them as witnesses at trial. This suggests that the Defendant merely regrets his trial strategy and is seeking a ‘second bite at the apple.’”
Reynolds’ attorney released a prepared statement to us Friday morning that says in part:
“The State’s suppression of the documents produced by Four Bridges also raises the question of whether other documents were withheld. The defense never received any documents or emails produced by Lakota.
“It seems reasonable to assume that if the State was going to charge Mr. Reynolds with a crime based on him proposing a partnership between Four Bridges and Lakota, the State would have collected records from both entities. The motion we submitted yesterday unequivocally shows that the State failed their responsibility to provide exculpatory evidence to Mr. Reynolds, resulting in a violation of his constitutional right to due process and a fair trial. We are hopeful that the Court will remedy the violation and order a new and fair trial.”
Reynolds’ attorney’s entire statement is below, along with the defense’s new court filings including Powell’s email and his letter to the judge in support of Reynolds, as well as the special prosecutor’s rebuttal.
Reynolds’ conviction was related to a proposal he made to the then-treasurer of Lakota Local Schools.
He suggested Lakota school district use public money ($750,000 over three years) from state funds his office returns to them and others annually to build an indoor golf training academy on private property at his country club/golf course subdivision, Special Prosecutor Brad Tammaro recently wrote in the state’s sentencing memo.
At the time this happened, one of his daughters was on the Lakota golf team, according to the memo. Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones says Reynolds also was a member of the Four Bridges Golf Club.
Logan relayed to Reynolds that she was advised by attorneys for the district against pursuing the plan for several reasons including using public money to build on private property, according to emails and text messages released to FOX19 NOW last year by Lakota.
When Reynolds’ actions were questioned, the state’s sentencing memo says, he tried to justify it with “a lie.”
“Lack of any genuine remorse can be found in the defendant’s recent motion asking the court to void the judgment of the jury,” the special prosecutor wrote.
“Rather than express an understanding of the improper nature of his actions. Defendant Reynolds simply expresses a combative attitude refusing to accept or recognize the criminal nature of the very actions that led to his conviction. The utter absence of any expression of genuine remorse is a clear indication that a period of incarceration would be appropriate.”
Logan testified during Reynolds’ trial that he proposed the golf academy idea to her during a meeting in December 2016 when she and others from the district met with him at the auditor’s office in downtown Hamilton about the district’s bond millage.
He asked others to leave the room when the meeting ended, according to the sentencing memo.
She was aware Reynolds lived in the Four Bridges neighborhood, his daughter was on the golf team at one of the schools and the high school golf coach was also the golf pro at the Four Bridges Country Club, the state’s sentencing memo says.
Logan, who retired from Lakota last year and now works for Butler County Educational Service Center, “explained that, while there was no overt threat, (Reynolds) repeated push for the proposal to spend the refund money for the project he wanted to see go forward made her feel ‘uncomfortable,’” Tammaro wrote in the memo.
“Ms. Logan felt so uncomfortable that the thought of the School District rejecting (Reynolds) proposition made her nervous,” the sentencing memo states. “Ms. Logan explained that because of the office (Reynolds) held, the political power of that office, she did not want to make an enemy.”
The school board never voted on Reynolds’ idea.
FOX19 NOW asked Lakota officials to comment on references to the district and its employees in Reynolds’ motion for a new trial and related court filings, including that Lakota “was on board” with the partnership for the golf academy.
We also asked Lakota and Logan to comment on the district’s golf coach writing in his letter to the judge:
“When I heard the testimony that Lakota was only entertaining this project to appease Mr. Reynolds, I was disgusted. Every person in the meetings I attended, showed excitement and contributed through their suggestions to make the project better for Lakota students. At no point did anyone say this was not a good idea. At no point did they even seem disinterested in the project. Therefore, they either lied during the trial or lied to me during the meetings. Either way, I’m disgusted.”
We did not hear back from Logan but a Lakota spokeswoman, Betsy Fuller, sent the following statement in addition to referring to school records they already released last year showing their attorney advised against the partnership.
“Lakota will always listen to potential opportunities that may be a benefit to our students. However, we would not act on a partnership until it was fully vetted, which may include consulting with our attorneys. As previously stated, we did not enter into this agreement with Four Bridges. Therefore, Board action was not sought.
“While school employees may meet with businesses to explore potential partnerships that would benefit our students, no school employee has the authority to commit to any agreement. The superintendent and/or treasurer would take any such recommendations to the Board for approval. This did not happen.”
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