0 Comments · Wednesday, January 23, 2013
If the adverse publicity from pleading
guilty to a minor crime — say indecent exposure or public intoxication —
is likely to cause you mental anguish, pray that you go before a judge
like Robert Lyons in Oxford.
by James McNair
at 05:46 PM | Permalink
Cites concern for defendant's mental health, says sealings are common in "college town"
adverse publicity from pleading guilty to a minor crime — say indecent
exposure or public intoxication — is likely to cause you mental anguish,
pray that you go before a judge like Robert Lyons in Oxford.
Lyons is the Butler County judge who took the guilty plea from the former Miami University student who posted the “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape”
flier in a dormitory bathroom. Lyons sealed the file in November,
shielding the young man’s name from public view. Facing an Ohio Supreme
Court challenge from the Cincinnati Enquirer, the judge dropped the disorderly conduct rap a month later and sealed the case again.
recounts those events in a deposition taken by Enquirer lawyer Jack
Greiner Jan. 15. (Download the full deposition by clicking here.) For starters, he swears he doesn’t remember the
defendant’s name, even “if I was tortured.” And here’s why he locked
away the case file and kept the Miami U. administration and campus
police from disclosing his name: “What I remember about him is that
there was certainly concern about his, say, his mental health and there
were grounds stated on the record for the necessity of sealing the
record. It had to do with his — probably as I recall, more so mental
well-being than anything else.”
wasn’t the first, nor the last, to be convicted of a crime in Lyons’
courtroom as leave as John Doe. As the part-time judge said under oath,
“This is a college town. Record sealings, you know, I would say if I do
10 record sealings in a week, that is not many.”Lyons is represented by Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Gmoser, who originally prosecuted John Doe, convicting him of disorderly conduct. Gmoser has asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the case against Lyons. The Enquirer has
other ideas. In a new pleading Friday, the paper says Lyons improperly
dismissed the conviction without a statutorily necessary finding of
“manifest injustice.” It wants to amend its lawsuit, while sticking with
its contention that, in Ohio, judges must do a document-by-document
review and conduct a public hearing before sealing case records.
by James McNair
Lawyer denies a plea occurred, contradicting previous explanation
County judge who granted the anonymity of a former Miami University
student convicted of posting a rape tips list on campus is standing by
Area 1 Court
Judge Robert Lyons ordered all case records sealed Nov. 8 after the
student pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and agreed to pay an
undisclosed fine. Six days later the Cincinnati Enquirer sued Lyons in the Ohio Supreme Court, arguing that the case file is a public record.
Lyons, represented by Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Gmoser, filed his answer Thursday. He denied violating the Enquirer’s claim of a constitutional right to a hearing where it could have argued against secrecy.
That Lyons is
standing his ground comes as no surprise, but his answer contains one
head-scratching statement. He — that is, Gmoser — wrote that “there was no
plea” in the case. Yet in a first-person account of the case in the Miami
University Student on Nov. 8, Gmoser
wrote that the defendant pleaded guilty. The court’s own schedule for Nov. 8
says the case was up for the entry of a guilty plea.
by James McNair
Ohio Supreme Court has until Dec. 14 to consider settlement over sealing of case
The sealing of a criminal court case involving a former
Miami University student who posted a “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with
Rape” flier in a freshman dormitory now has the presiding judge
defending his decision to the Ohio Supreme Court. And he’s doing it with
the help of the Butler County prosecutor who endorsed the secrecy.
Robert Lyons, whose part-time job as the judge for Butler
County Area I Court supplements his income as a practicing attorney,
took the student’s guilty plea to disorderly conduct on Nov. 8. At the
request of the young man’s lawyer, Dennis Deters, the judge ordered the
case file and all printed references to the defendant’s name sealed from
public view. The order extended to paperwork generated by the Miami
University Police Department. In effect, other than the press coverage
it received, all record that the crime was committed and the perpetrator
was brought to justice doesn’t exist.
Six days later, the Cincinnati Enquirer filed suit
against Lyons with the Ohio Supreme Court. It said Lyons erred by
issuing a “blanket” seal of the case. It said he failed to “find by
clear and convincing evidence that the presumption of public access is
outweighed by a higher interest” and further failed to conduct a hearing
where the Enquirer could argue for public access. The Enquirer didn't mention in its initial report on the plea deal an intent to sue over the sealing, and to date it hasn’t reported on its own lawsuit.
Lyons was given until Dec. 14 to file an answer. What’s
weird is that Lyons is represented by Butler County’s Prosecuting
Attorney, Mike Gmoser. In Ohio, the county prosecutor serves as legal
counsel for county government, county agencies and school districts —
and represents them in court — as standard practice. As a private
practitioner, though, Lyons specializes in defending people accused of
drunken driving. Guess who sits at the opposing counsel’s table in those
cases? Yes, Gmoser’s deputy prosecutors.
Lyons’ unusual role as defender and decider of DWI cases drew umbrage from Gmoser in March. According to the Hamilton Journal-News,
Lyons the judge was about to rule on a motion to disallow the results
of an Intoxilyzer 8000 blood-alcohol testing device in a DWI case. Lyons
the lawyer, meanwhile, had challenged the validity of the machine in
other cases, and his firm ran seminars about its failings. At Gmoser’s
request, a higher court judge in July ordered Lyons to step down from
hearing 10 pending DWI cases.
Last Thursday, in his initial response to the Enquirer’s
lawsuit to open the rape tipster’s court file, Lyons hinted at the
possibility of not fighting the suit. He asked to have until Dec. 14 to
file a full response “so as to give settlement discussions an
opportunity to come to fruition.”