More than seven months after a former assistant Montgomery County prosecutor was indicted on rape charges, the case remains shielded from public view with no indication of whether a trial is even scheduled.
John Amos was indicted July 15 and resigned from the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office the same day. Visiting Judge Daniel Hogan on July 20 granted a motion from Amos’ defense attorney to seal the case from public view.
The result is that the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts docket contains no information beyond a list of charges. Even the visiting judge’s name and hearing dates are not visible.
The only way the public knows Amos pleaded not guilty — and was allowed to stay home with no cash bond or electronic monitoring as the case proceeds — is because the Dayton Daily News had a reporter at the hearing which was scheduled before the case was sealed.
A status conference is being scheduled where the continued sealing of the case will be discussed, court officials told the Dayton Daily News on Thursday.
Handling of case ‘extremely unusual’
Legal experts say the terms of Amos’ release and sealing of the case are both rare. And they are the latest twists in an already unusual case involving special prosecutors in multiple counties.
Montgomery County Public Defender Theresa Haire said the complete sealing of the case and pretrial release conditions are unusual.
“Clearly none of our defendants have ever been released without posting any bond, or with reporting to their lawyer,” she said. “Especially with such a serious crime, that does not happen.”
Hogan on July 28 agreed with a motion from Amos’ defense attorney to let Amos stay out of jail on his own recognizance pending the trial. Amos has to check in weekly with his attorney by phone.
David Singleton, director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, said the terms of Amos’ pretrial release are “extremely unusual.”
Singleton advocates for people to get the minimum restrictions necessary to get them to show up for court, but said the average person accused of felony rape would be looking at a six-figure bond and electronic monitoring.
“It raises the questions about fairness in terms of how other people are treated,” Singleton said. “I think It’s important that everybody that’s charged with a crime is presumed innocent, but the system doesn’t do that for the average Joes and that’s what is noteworthy about this situation.”
Such an extreme sealing of an open case is “very, very rarely” done, according to Jack Greiner, a Cincinnati attorney specializing in media and public records law who has represented the Dayton Daily News in the past.
“It’s just not what courts are supposed to do,” he said. “The public serves as a watchdog to make sure the court proceeds fairly.”
This is even more important, he said, when the defendant is a public official in the criminal justice system.
In the motion to seal the case, Amos’ then-attorney Charles Wagner cites a provision of Ohio law allowing a judge upon request of the victim or defendant in a rape case to order “that the names of the victim and offender and the details of the alleged offense as obtained by any law enforcement officer be suppressed until the preliminary hearing, the accused is arraigned in the court of common pleas, the charge is dismissed, or the case is otherwise concluded, whichever occurs first.”
“This case will most likely attract major media attention. This may jeopardize the potential jury pool and taint the proceedings,” Wagner’s motion reads. “It is in the best interests for proper due process of both parties, that the public be restricted from access to the court pleadings until the case is concluded.”
Hogan granted the motion July 20.
Amos is now represented by attorney Andrew Pratt, who declined to comment for this story saying he does not comment on open cases.
Now that the case is sealed, it’s impossible to know if any preliminary hearing or arraignment has taken place that would cause the order to be lifted under the statute.
Court officials would not comment on the case except to confirm that Hogan is still the judge, despite court records listing newly elected Common Pleas Court Judge Angelina Jackson as presiding.
“She has not participated in the case in any manner and will not be doing so at any further part of the proceedings. It is in all respects Judge Hogan’s case,” said court Administrator Steven Hollon.
Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck’s office also declined to comment, saying they have no involvement in the case.
Hogan declined an opportunity to comment saying he does not comment about open cases.
Original report in 2020
The charges against Amos stem from incidents alleged to have happened between April 19, 2013 and April 27, 2013. A sheriff’s office incident report obtained by the Dayton Daily News shows it was reported in Washington Twp. on June 17, 2020.
The case was originally referred to the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office to avoid a conflict of interest. By August 2021, the case was transferred back to Montgomery County.
Amy Clausing, spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s office, said they would not comment on the investigation. She said the case was transferred back because the special prosecutor handling the case left to work for another county and they “did not have the resources to assign another prosecutor.”
The case stayed with the Montgomery County prosecutor’s office for months, including in November 2021 when Heck appointed Amos to lead courtroom arguments in the high-profile case of a Dayton man who shot two teenagers to death in his garage.
Montgomery County Prosecutors Office spokesman Greg Flannagan previously responded to questions from the Dayton Daily News about Amos working there throughout the investigation.
“We were notified of an investigation in June of 2020. We were not notified until February of 2021 that a police report was available,” Flannagan wrote in July. “There was never a complaint or warrant filed against Mr. Amos, and no investigator or special assistant prosecutor ever advised of any threat or danger in Mr. Amos continuing in his position as an assistant prosecuting attorney.”
Multiple special prosecutors
In response to questions about Amos getting pay raises and praise while under investigation – bonuses totaling $27,781 and raises totaling $16,182 in 2020 and 2021 – Flannagan said pay raises and positive feedback in Amos’ personnel file was equal and verbatim to what other prosecutor’s office employees got those years.
In January 2022, Montgomery County petitioned the court to have Lucas County take over the case.
Asked why there was months of delay from when Montgomery County received the case from Hamilton County and passed it to Lucas County, Flannagan said: “During the time we were obtaining a new special prosecutor in this matter, we were also obtaining special prosecutors for four officer-involved shootings.”
Amos in March 2022 submitted his name to be considered for a governor’s appointment to become Miamisburg Municipal Court judge, but withdrew his name in April.
Lucas County special prosecutor Jennifer Liptack-Wilson procured a grand jury indictment on July 15.
The Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office did not return a call seeking comment.
About the Author