Prosecutor fires back, says charges against Reynolds should not be dismissed

Special Prosecutor Brad Tammaro said the indictment already identifies the conduct of Butler County auditor’s alleged crimes.

A special prosecutor trying the criminal case against Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds says a defense motion to dismiss the charges based on the bill of particulars is just an attempt to get the state to outline its evidence prematurely.

“The defendant is attempting (to have) this court find that charges are legally insufficient based upon the contention the state cannot prove the elements of the offense,” Special Prosecutor Brad Tammaro wrote in a response filed Wednesday afternoon. “When last examined, that is precisely what the procedure known as a trial is supposed to accomplish, did the evidence establish the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Late last month Chad Ziepfel, Reynolds’ criminal attorney, asked the court to dismiss the criminal charges against him, stating the elements of the charges fail to comply with state law.

Reynolds was indicted Feb. 9 on five criminal charges. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. The case is being heard by visiting Judge Daniel Hogan, who was appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Reynolds, 52, is facing charges of bribery, two counts of unlawful interest in a public contract and misdemeanor charges of unlawful use of authority and conflict of interest. The charges stem from allegations that Reynolds used his public office to further his own interests.

Ziepfel said in the motion that the case is based on what he says is a flawed bill of particulars, or outline for the alleged crimes, filed by Tammaro, who was appointed by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

Criminal charges against Reynolds came after a months-long investigation by the Butler County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

In the motion for dismissal, Ziepfel said in 2020 Reynolds found himself under criminal investigation “based on false allegations made in a civil complaint filed by his family’s 88-year-old disgruntled neighbor.”

The indicted charges were the outcome of a “very public and politically-motivated investigation,” according to Ziepfel. The attorney pointed to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones’ “very public pleas” for Reynolds to resign from his office without a hearing or reviewing the evidence against him.

In February, a special commission comprised of three retired judges appointed by the chief justice ruled in Reynolds’ favor, declining to suspend him from office.

During that suspension proceeding, Ziepfel said, Reynolds was served with a bill of particulars in the criminal case. The defense attorney says they are legally insufficient.

Tammaro said in a lengthy response that Ziepfel is requesting the prosecution to lay out the facts that would prove the elements of the charges.

“He is seeking to use (this) motion as a summary judgment motion,” Tammaro wrote in the response, adding that it is not the job of the court to examine the weight or nature of evidence to be presented at trial.

Tammaro also said in the motion that the defense ignores the contents of the indictment that identifies the conduct of the alleged crimes.

“Moreover, (Reynolds) appears to mix and convert the elements of offenses that are not charged into elements of the offenses that are charged and then called the charged offenses legally insufficient,” Tammaro said in the motion.

Reynolds’ trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 15. There is no request by the defense or prosecution for a hearing on the motions.

Bribery is a third-degree felony with a possible maximum sentence of three years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. The other two felonies are fourth-degree charges with penalties of six to nine months behind bars.

The charges relate to Reynolds allegedly using his position to facilitate the sale of his father’s property in West Chester Twp.

Reynolds was appointed auditor in 2008 and elected to his first full term in 2010.

Prosecutors allege the bribery crime happened Nov. 8, 2019, and on or about Sept. 17, 2021, when Reynolds, an elected official, “approached a developer attempting to gain approval for a development project and offered to sell the development company his father’s land for $500,000, 2-3 acres of land valued at $21,000.00 by the Butler County Auditor’s Office, and requested the developer employ him as a consultant at a fee of $200,000 to guide the development project through local governmental requirements,” according to the bill of particulars filed.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

A second felony charge of unlawful interest in a public contract is tied to events that allegedly happened between April 6, 2021 and Aug. 31, 2021, when Reynolds used his office to influence a public contract.

Specifically, Reynolds is accused of influencing governmental officials to secure approval of a Tax Increment Financing proposal to provide public funding from three government entities for infrastructure and improvements to Hamilton-Mason Road. Those would benefit himself or a member of his family by providing public funds that would enhance the ability to develop property owned by his family, according to court documents.

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