Court rules against Centerville collecting fines in false active shooter case

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled against Centerville getting $1,375.56 in restitution in payroll losses from the maker of a false active shooter report case stemming from an April 2018 incident. FILE
The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled against Centerville getting $1,375.56 in restitution in payroll losses from the maker of a false active shooter report case stemming from an April 2018 incident. FILE

Credit: FILE

Credit: FILE

An Ohio Supreme Court ruling against Centerville’s receiving restitution from payroll losses in a false active shooter report struck a blow to municipalities statewide.

But while Thursday’s decision said a city cannot seek repayment under the 2017 Ohio Constitution change known as Marsy’s Law, it does not shut the door on a municipality seeking compensation elsewhere, a Centerville official said.

The ruling on which five justices concurred states “a municipal corporation does not qualify as a victim” and “it is not entitled to restitution” under Marsy’s Law.

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The law “defines a victim as ‘a person against whom the criminal offense or delinquent act is committed or who is directly and proximately harmed by the commission of the offense or act’,” according to the ruling by Justice Judith French.

But “as the ruling indicates, the court’s decision does not foreclose — and did not address — a city’s ability to obtain restitution under other provisions of Ohio law,” Centerville Municipal Attorney Scott Liberman said in a statement released by the city.

Centerville sought $1,375.56 in losses from the maker of a false active shooter report case stemming from an April 2018 incident.

The case involved Michael Knab calling 9-1-1 to report an active shooter at his home, according to court records.

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It was determined that there was no active shooter, and Knab was charged with and convicted of making a false report and improper use of the 9-1-1 system.

As part of his sentence, Knab was ordered to pay $1,375.56 in restitution to the city. But that decision was eventually reversed by the Second District Court of Appeals.

The supreme court’s ruling affirmed the appeals court decision. Concurring with French’s ruling were Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Patrick F. Fischer, R. Patrick DeWine and Melody J. Stewart.

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Justices Michael P. Donnelly and Justice Sharon L. Kennedy concurred in judgment only, with Kennedy issuing a concurring opinion.

“We are disappointed the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision failed to find that municipalities can be considered victims of crime,” Centerville Police Chief Matt Brown said in the city’s statement.

“The caller in this case was convicted for breaking the law. His false claims of an active shooter in our city wasted taxpayer-funded resources, and compromised officers' ability to respond to legitimate emergency calls,” he said.

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