0 Comments · Wednesday, January 23, 2013
When a reporter uses the law to pry
public records from resisting officials, readers are supposed to
benefit. And when readers value that invocation of open records laws, it
adds luster to the reporter’s work.
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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The case of a former Miami University
student who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for posting a “Top Ten
Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier in a dormitory bathroom just keeps
getting more controversial.
by James McNair
Judge allows convicted student to withdraw his plea, then seals case again
The case of a
former Miami University student who pleaded guilty to disorderly
conduct for posting a “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier in a
dormitory bathroom just keeps getting more controversial.The
controversy began Nov. 8, when Butler County Area 1 Court Judge Robert
Lyons took the guilty plea and ordered all record of the case —
including the defendant’s name — sealed from public view. The MU police
chief says he is bound by Lyons’ order and can’t release the name. The
Butler County Prosecuting Attorney’s office did not object to the
sealing of the file.The Cincinnati Enquirer
entered the picture six days later. It sued Lyons in the Ohio Supreme
Court, saying he sealed the file without giving the newspaper a chance
to argue for public access. In his answer — filed by the Prosecuting
Attorney’s office on Dec. 13 — Lyons stood by his actions. Furthermore,
he wrote that “there was no plea” in the case.Now we know
where that came from. On that very same day, the case was back in Lyons
court for reconsideration. This time, prosecutors agreed to drop the
charge, and Lyons ruled it so. And, once again, he sealed the file, and
no one present objected. The Enquirer reported on the dismissal Wednesday.Prosecuting
Attorney Mike Gmoser won’t say why he agreed to dropping the charge
until the Supreme Court case is over. “Save that question, and I will
give you a full and detailed statement,” he told CityBeat. “I don’t try cases in the press.”Gmoser said he is asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the Enquirer’s suit because the issue at hand is “moot.”
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 19, 2012
The Butler County judge who granted the
anonymity of a former Miami University student convicted of posting a
rape tips list on campus is standing by his decision.
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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 12, 2012
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.
by German Lopez
Parking privatization deal reached, rape flier case could be unsealed, casino revenue drops
The city of Cincinnati and its largest city employees union have reached a deal
regarding the privatization of the city’s parking assets. Under the
deal’s terms, the city will give raises and not lay off anyone for three
years, but only if the city’s parking assets are privatized. However,
the head of a Clifton community group is still not happy with the privatization plan. He says the plan is bad for business because it limits the amount of affordable parking in the area. But would laying off 344 city employees be better for business?
The identity of the Miami University student who put up
the infamous “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier may soon be revealed. The Ohio Supreme Court
will decide by Dec. 14 whether the case should be unsealed and open to public view. Robert Lyons, the Butler County part-time judge who sealed the case, has faced scrutiny in the past few months for conflicts of interest regarding drinking-and-driving cases.
Revenue from casinos in Toledo and Cleveland is dropping. The numbers paint a bad picture for Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials expecting budget problems to be solved by casino revenue.
A proposal mandating drug testing for welfare recipients in Ohio resurfaced last week. Republican legislators claim the requirement will save the state money, but a similar proposal in Florida added to budget woes as the state was forced to pay for drug tests.
Ohio’s ultra-wealthy population is growing.
About 1,330 Ohioans are worth $30 million or more, an increase of 2
percent since 2011, according to a report from Wealth-X. The news could
shape Gov. John Kasich’s plan to cut the income tax using revenue from a
higher oil-and-gas severance tax, perhaps encouraging state officials to make
the cut more progressive.
Gov. Kasich is ending the practice
of giving so many tax credits to keep businesses in Ohio. The move could
potentially cost the state jobs as businesses move to other areas with
bigger, better incentives, but state officials and the business community don’t seem too worried for now.
If the Ohio government agencies were forced to cut their budgets by 10 percent, the results would not be pretty. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
would have to close prisons, and the Ohio Department of Natural
Resources would have a tougher time enforcing new regulations on
Ohio’s exotic animal law is facing a challenge in federal court
today. Exotic animal owners claim the law violates their First
Amendment and property rights by forcing them to join private
associations and give up their animals without compensation. They also
do not like the provision that requires microchips be implanted into the
animals. The Humane Society of the United States is defending the law,
which was passed after a man released 56 exotic animals and killed himself in 2011.
An Ohio court said a business tax on fuel sales must be used on road projects.
Ohio gas prices are still dropping.
The cure for leukemia could be a modified version of the AIDS virus.
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.”
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 31, 2012
SUNDAY OCT. 28: Many people who read today’s Enquirer
endorsement of Mitt Romney for president likely set the paper down,
said something like “I need to move out of this [expletive] city” and
then googled “Jobs where newspapers don’t endorse Sarah Palin.”